Cruise South America

Back in February 2009 my Step Father James and myself had the pleasure of cruising around South America with NCL, (Norwegian Cruise Liners). I have already covered our experience of travelling on an NCL cruise in my earlier hub, which reviews both the positives and negatives of our experience. This article is to cover the various ports we stopped at along the way and to give you a bit of history and information on each location in case you are considering a similar cruise yourselves. We didn't choose to disembark at every port, but I do have the information on those locations too, and shall include it in this write up.

The Norwegian Sun

Sunday 15th February, Santiago, Chile.

We boarded our ship The Norwegian Sun after a coach trip to Val Paraiso port, and having been issued with our passenger embarkation cards (which are then used for everything from paying for drinks, to opening your stateroom/cabin door) we settled into our stateroom and got ourselves unpacked before going to familiarise ourselves with the ship, and take part in the compulsory lifeboat drill.

Val Paraiso

Monday 16th February

This was spent at sea, but we still enjoyed the time to explore the ship further, eat some good food, enjoy the on board entertainment and drink some wine whilst perusing the range of shore excursions that would be available at the various ports, and deciding which ones appealed to us.

Puerto Montt

Tuesday 17th February Puerto Montt, Chile.

Having looked at the information about Puerto Montt we decided this was one port we were not overly interested in visiting. My Step Father had visited it some years earlier and found it somewhat dull. We were however given the information on each port as standard in our cabin each day, so to give you a bit of history on the place a summary of this information is below.

Puerto Montt serves as a gateway to Chile's nearly uninhabited fjord country, Chilean Patagonia, and the southern lakes district. The community of Puerto Montt has a notably European atmosphere and a distinct appeal of it's own.

The city was founded in 1853 by Vicente Perez Rosales. Accompanying him as part of a government backed plan to populate the region were German Colonists who had come to South America to claim the surrounding Llanquihue Province. They settled on the Reloncavi Sound, creating a town they named in honour of Manuel Montt, the Chilean President at that time, and a leader who had backed the German immigration. The Germans built their homes in the same style as they would in their German homeland, with pitched roofs and elaborate balconies.

The city flourished as an agricultural and fishing centre, booming in 1912 with the arrival of a railway that made Puerto Montt a stop on the way to the city of Chiloé. Toward the end of 20th Century a further boom came in the form of the salmon industry, and the fish are now raised at over 30 locations in the region and are a major export.

A devastating earthquake in 1960 cost Puerto Montt some of it's structures, but today many historic homes remain, including the town's oldest building, the 1856 Iglesia Catedral, located on the Plaza de Armas. The history of the region can also be seen if a visit is made to the MuseoJuan Pablo II, a waterfront museum with displays highlighting the German immigration, the region's natural history, and the the area's maritime history. Art lovers can enjoy the Casa del Arte Diego Rivera, a Mexican-Chilean project named for the famous murlaist; it showcases the work of many local artists and features a statue commemorating the early German colonists.

One of the favourite spots for visitors is the scenic Angelmó, the fishing port for Puerto Montt located about three kilometres west of downtown. The high waterfront (built this way to avoid swelling tides), is lined with cafes featuring fresh catch; a well known crafts market sells wool sweaters and panchos as well as other handicrafts. From the port, boats ply the waters of the Reloncavi Inlet, heading for the nearby islands as well as the Chiloé Archipelago, known for it's dense forests and beautiful scenic villages.

About 23 kilometres from Puerto Montt lies one of the region's top visitor attractions: Llanquihue Lake. This is the second largest lake in Chile and is 22 miles long by 25 miles across at it's widest point. It is surrounded by the Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes. Fed by streams that wind through the volcanoes and the Andes Mountains, the deep lake is home to many salmon. A favourite getaway for residents and visitors, this lake offers activities such as beach fun and skiing, (depending on the season).

*****

Shore Excursions Available in Puerto Montt, Chile.

There were a number of shore excursions to choose from if you did decide to explore this port.

Alerce Mountain Lodge: An 8 hour trip in a four wheel drive vehicle through beautiful scenery heading from Puerto Montt , along the Reloncavi Estuary to the Andes Mountains. Arriving at Alerce Mountain Lodge amidst one of the most spectacular forest scenarios you will ever see. During the trip you get to see one of the oldest Alerce trees in the area called El Tata, (the Grandfather), and believed to be 4000 years old. Upon arrival at Laguna Reflejos (Lake of Reflections), you board a small hand-drawn raft for the last leg of the journey to the lodge itself. Here you will be given an introduction to the history of the lodge, and then you set off on a two-hour hike to the Oro Verde Mayor (Green Gold) Valdivian forest. From El Condor observation point you will enjoy the view of the glacial valley formed millions of years ago. The highlight of the trip is the Fountain of Hope, where crystal-clear water runs from the mountains and forms an enchanting waterfall and pool. You will then return to the lodge for lunch before boarding the vehicles that will take you back to the ship.

Nature and Traditions: A 7.5 hour drive through Puerto Montt, passing by the main square and stopping on one of the hills for a panoramic view of the city. Continuing on to Puerto Varas where you have a magnificent view of Lake Llanquihue with snow covered volcanoes reflecting in the crystal clear waters. This is South America's third largest natural lake. On the east side there is a charming German-style village where you can stop at a handicraft market. Then drive to "Fundo Olguita", a real Chilean farm and learn about the 'huaso', the typical Chilean cowboy, their traditions, food, games and costumes, before enjoying a horse skills show with pure bred Chilean horses. Afterwards typical food is served accompanied by some of the finest local wines whilst you are entertained by a folkloric show.

Petrohue Falls & Lake Esmeralda Catamaran Cruise: An 8 hour tour described as a "Photographer's Dream". Begins with a drive to the tiny port of Petrohue in the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, and then board a catamaran for a cruise along Lake Todos los Santos, known as Lake Esmeralda because of it's vivid blue-green colour. Enjoy lunch overlooking the lake and then begin the drive to the Petrohue Falls, stopping along the way for a woodland walk to the Petrohue River, where the waters plunge over hard volcanic rocks to for gushing cascades. The well marked path has railings, but some parts are uneven and can be muddy. On return to the port you will drive through beautiful lush countryside and see weathered clapboard barns and churches. A short stop is made at the handicraft market in Puerto Varas, where you will have magnificent views of Lake Llanquihue, the largest lake in Chile, and snow-capped OsornoVolcano. The tour continues with a short orientation of Puerto Montt before returning to the pier.

Petrohue River Rafting: A 6 hour trip, setting off on a Class III-IV, 12-mile rafting trip down the clear, azure waters of the Petrohue River. The mighty Petrohue is one of Chile's most beautiful glacial rivers, and the surrounding scenery is a spectacular range of old-growthforest, waterfalls and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and volcanoes. Your river guide will maneuver you through thunderous rapids so you can enjoy a thrilling whitewater experience. A picnic lunch will be served on the riverbank.

Nature at it's Best: A 7.5 hour excursion that takes you to the Lake District en route to Petrohue falls, where you'll make your first stop. Your drive in a small bus continues to an altitude of approximately 3,937 feet at La Burbuja, the starting point for those who come to ski on the hillsides of the volcano. From here you can admire the snow-capped Osomo Volcano, which reaches 8,700 feet above sea level, and also have time to walk around the property and take some amazing photos. Afterwards you will descend towards Ensenada for a delicious lunch where you will have enough free time to shop at the handicrafts market.

Canopy Adventure at Osorno Volcano: A 7.5 hour trip by coach via the Lake District to the Osorno Volcano, 8,700 feet above sea level. The first platform of this canopy adventure is located on the slopes of the volcano. The canopy consists of a series of platforms built firmly on high treetops. These are joined together by steel cables. You'll receive the highest of quality equipment such as harnesses used by professional climbers and a short briefing on how to use the equipment. Then you begin the amazing descent travelling from tree to tree admiring the beauty of the landscape. The first part of the trip takes you through the Chucao Canyon with rocks of more than 328 feet high, and surrounded by beautiful cascades while crossing an 820 foot non-stop stretch. Then you will reach Gran Coihue platform where you have a fabulous view of Lake Llanquihue. Before reaching the base you will have to cross four more platforms. Trees in this area are more than 130 feet high, and the maximum descent speed is 28 miles per hour. At the end of this adventure you will board your bus and go to Ensenada for lunch. On the way back you will stop in Puerto Varas to take pictures and shop in the handicrafts market.

Puerto Varas & Frutillar: 3.5 hours, this half day excursion includes Puerto Montt and the nearby scenic towns of Puerto Varas and Frutillar, both located on Lake Llanquihue. As you drive through Puerto Montt, you'll see colorful shingled houses and pass the Plaza de Armas with its Neo-Classical cathedral. You will then continue on to Puerto Varas, passing through lush countryside,dotted with weathered clapboard barns and churches. Stopping in the main plaza in Puerto Varas (aka City of Roses), for a stunning view of Lake Llanquihue. Next visit Frutillar, a charming village founded in 1856 by German settlers and noted for it's Alpine and traditional German-style architecture. Visit the open-air museum where you can learn about the life of the early German settlers.

Horse Riding in the Lake District: 3 hours involving a short ride to where a private farm where your horse will be waiting. From here the view towards the ocean is beautiful. You'll receive a short briefing about horseback riding and your riding gear before beginning your ride through the beautiful Lake District. This land of diversity will allow you to discover the beauty and wilderness of the valleys from your trail. If the tide is low, a short ride by the beach may be added depending on weather conditions.

Petrohue Falls & Frutillar: 7.5 hours starting with a drive to the Petrohue Falls in the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park. You will stop along the way for a walk through the woods to the Petrohue River, where the waters plunge over the volcanic rocks forming impressive gushing cascades. The path may be uneven or muddy, but does have railings. On return you will drive through lush countryside seeing weathered clapboard barns and churches, before stopping at the main plaza in Puerto Varas, known as the City of Roses, for a stunning view of Lake Llanquihue. Enjoy lunch in Puerto Varas. Next visit Frutillar, a charming village founded by German settlers in 1856 and featuring traditional German-style architecture. Visit the open air museum to learn more about the life of the early German settlers.

Puerto Chacabuco

Wednesday 18th February, Puerto Chacabuco, Chile

This was a port we did decide to visit, and we enjoyed one of the tours called "Coyhaique and Simpson Valley", which was a five and a half hour trip. To describe the trip I shall quote from the write up given on the ship tour guide, followed by our opinion.

" Enjoy the dramatically beautiful Aysen district on an approximately 45 minute ride filled with canyons, rivers and valleys to Rio Simpson National Reserve. Visit a small museum with exhibits of local plants and flowers, and then stroll down to the river to view the rugged but picturesque scenery. You'll see more natural beauty as you drive along the Simpson River, including an abundance of birds and vistas of waterfalls tumbling over sheer cliffs. Cross the Andes Mountains en route to Coyhaique, the city regional capital, stopping briefly at an overlook to see the city from above. Visit both the Regional Museum of Patagonia in Coyhaique, featuring exhibits on the history of the region and the main plaza and the handicraft market. Then enjoy an array of tasty treats before the return to your ship".

We loved this trip and especially enjoyed he Rio Simpson National Reserve, (where we were lucky enough to see a Condor flying high above us), and the drive past all the tumbling waterfalls and cliffs. The museum was rather on the basic side, but all in all the overall trip was very enjoyable, and the food at the end was excellent. The area is famous for the beautiful Lapiz Lazuli stone, and I purchased a lovely ring made of this stone as a souvenir of this particular port.

To give you some further information on this port I shall summarise some of the history of Puerto Chacabuco.

At the head of the Aisen Fjord, this port city is a jumping off point for the natural attractions of the region, offering a peak at snow capped peaks from its own natural harbour as well.

Puerto Chacabuco bustles with activity both from tourists and from the shipping and fishing industries but originally the port for this region was located fifteen kilometres east in the town of Puerto Aisén. The larger Puerto Aisén dates back to it's founding in 1914 as a cattle shipping point but the nature which so beautifully surrounds this region also caused an end to much of its port activity;silting of the Aisén River meant that the port had to be relocated to Puerto Chacabuco.

The Aisén River empties into the Aisén Fjord, a scenic Fjord that stretches for about 70 kilometres along the Moraleda Channel which separates this land from mainland Chile. The fjord is connected to the Pacific by the Darwin Channel.

Like fjords from Alaska to Norway, Aisén was formed when the area's valley filled with sea water. Like other fjords, this landmass is fringed with skerries, rocky islands that stand like stone sentinels and have challenged mariners for centuries.

With its location on the Aisén Fjord, Puerto Chacabuco is part of the Aisén Region, officially the XI Región de Aisén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo. This is the least populated of the 13 regions into which Chile is divided.

Some travellers believe the name Aisén came from an 1831 map from an exploration of the Beagle with Charles Darwin, labeling the area as "Ice End". Researchers, however, that the name dates back nearly a century earlier and today most believe the name is derived from the Huilliche, part of the Mapuche culture, and from their word "Achen," which means "to crumble," an accurate assessment of the skerry-lined landmass.

The natural forces in this region include not only landmasses and glaciers, but winds and currents as well. Tides of up to 24 feet are commonplace in this area which is located near the West Wind Drift, an ocean current that meets Chile at the 41st latitude (Puerto Chacabuco is located at the 45th latitude). The current forks and becomes the Humboldt Current to the north and the Cape Horn Current to the south.

Those currents are met by strong westerly winds known as the Roaring Forties. Named by the seamen of early clipper ships, these winds come off the Andes between the 40th and 50th parallels.

Many of the natural forces at work in the region can be seen in the area's top tourist stop: the Laguna San Rafael National Park. Spanning over 6700 square miles, the expansive park showcases the San Rafael Lagoon which was created by the San Rafael Glacier. Although the spectacular lagoon is the centerpiece, it is by no means the park's only attraction. Sea lions, Chilean dolphins, elephant seals, black-necked swans, and many other bird and animal species call this land home.

*****

Shore Excursions Available in Puerto Chacabuco, Chile.

Patagonian Nature in Depth. 5 hours, South of Chiloe and Puerto Montt lies the wild and beautiful Aysen District. This expedition combines bewilderment, adventure and connection with the virgin forests of Patagonia, offering you a glimpse of the impressive landscape of this wet and windy region . A fifteen minute ride will take you to the Aiken del Sur Park, where you'll first visit the information centre for an introduction to the area. You'll then take an approximately two-hour hike along the River Trail that will immerse you into the deep nature of Patagonia, traversing prairies and humid forests. At the end of the trail , the Old Man's Beard Cascade will be awaiting you. Upon your return, you'll walk along the Waterfall Trail, where you'll board your transportation to the 'quincho' for a delicious Patagonian barbecue lunch, Chilean wines and folkloric dances before returning to your ship.

Horseback Riding in Rio Simpson. 3.5 hours. The wild and beautiful Aysan District of Chile lies south of Chiloe and Puerto Montt. There are impressive landscapes in this wet and windy region which comprises part of the Chilean Patagonia.What can be better than seeing the beauty of this land at your own pace on horseback? We invite you to feel the same feelings the first colonists who arrived in this area felt: bewilderment and astonishment at contemplating nature at its best. Your excursion begins with a 45 minute journey through beautiful scenery as you follow the river along the base of a deep rocky gorge. Your destination is a small farm where horses will be waiting for you. After instructions are given and riding gear is in place, you will start your two hour adventure in the company of your guide.

Journey into Patagonian Nature. 3 hours. This tour gives you a glimpse of the impressive landscape of the region. Upon arrival at Puerto Chacabuco, a 15 minute ride will take you along a beautiful road up to Aiken del Sur Park . Unlimited natural beauty can be found here such as the banks of the placid , transparent blue waters of the Riesco Lake, covering an area of about eight and a half miles. Visit the small information centre for an introduction to the area, then take an invigorating 40 minute walk into the Patagonian nature, ending at a beautiful cascade with a 72 foot drop. See the indigenous perennial forests, caducifoiae, humid variety ferns (some typified for the first time in Chile), moss and lichen. Endless prairies combining patriarchal myrtle and turf mingled with wild fuchsia and calafate shrubbery, as well as macal, and mallines, or swamps, are some of the sights you'll enjoy at the park. You'll return to the 'quincho' for a cocktail and tasty local snacks before the ride back to your ship.

Puerto Chacabuco & Surroundings. 2.5 hours. This excursion will provide a look at some of the impressive landscape in this wet and windy region that comprises part of the Chilean Patagonia. Puerto Chacabuco, one of the few places where the Andes touch the coastline, compensates for the harsh climate with incredible natural beauty. The construction of the Carretera Austral Roadway now makes the area now makes the area more accessible for travellers who come to this area of Chile to experience frontier country. Your tour begins with an approximately one hour journey through stunning scenery, as you follow the river along the base of a deep gorge. At the Rio Simpson National Reserve, you can leave your coach and walk down to the river for some wonderful photographs of this rugged scenery. At the information centre, you'll find a small museum displaying exhibits of local flora and fauna. Your return journey will take you through the small village of Aysen.

Kayaking on Lake Los Palos. 3.5 hours. Enjoy the wild nature of this portion of northern Patagonia. In this area the Andes Mountain Range sinks into the ocean, and that phenomenon has created dozens of small lakes and rivers. You begin with a short drive from Puerto Chacabuco to Lake Los Palos. Upon arrival, a short safety briefing will be given. Next, you'll paddle along the western shore of the lake northward until reaching the Tabo River, which feeds the lake. This is an area of calm, crystalline waters. The next part of the navigation takes you upstream, where you'll see the varied endemic vegetation and the typical Patagonian birds that inhabit this area, such as the kingfisher, eagles, several species of ducks, caiquenes and others. A stop will be made to take a short walk into the woods. Continuing your navigation, you'll reach a small island of native vegetation, where a second stop will be made in order to rest for a while and take a light snack before returning to the starting point.

Puerto Chacabuco continued.

Thursday 19th February, Cruising the Chilean Fjords, Patagonic Channel & Canal Moraleda.

There isn't too much I can say other than that this whole part of the cruise was full of fantastic scenery and photo opportunities.

Friday 20th February, Cruising the Straits of Magellan.

Ferdinand Magellan. (Spring 1480 - April 27th, 1521, Mactan Island, Cebu, Philippines) was a Portuguese maritime explorer who while in the service of the Spanish crown, tried to find a westward route to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. This was the first known successful attempt to circumnavigate the Earth. He did not complete his final westward voyage; he was killed during the Battle of Mactanin the Philippines. As he died farther west than the Spice Islands, which he had visited on earlier voyages from the west, he became one of the first individuals to cross all meridians of the globe. He was the first person to lead an expedition sailing westward from Europe to Asia and to cross the Pacific Ocean. Magellan should also be recognised as the first European explorer to enter the Pacific from the Strait of Magellan, which he discovered. He is also remembered as the first European to reach the archipelago of what is now known as the Philippines, which was unknown to the western world before his landing. Arab traders had established commerce within the archipelago centuries earlier. Of the 270 crew members who set out with Magellan to circumnavigate the earth, only 18 completed the circumnavigation of the globe and managed to return to Spain. They were led by Spaniard Juan Sebastian Elcano who took over command of the expedition after Magellan's death.

Strait of Magellan.The Strait of Magellan is a navigable sea route immediately south of mainland Chile, South America and north of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. The strait is the most important natural passage between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, but it is considered a difficult route to navigate because of the inhospitable climate and the narrowness of the passage. It is 350 miles long, 2 to 15 miles wide, about 4 km (2 miles) wide at it's narrowest point. Chile took possession of the channel on May 23rd, 1843. Chilean president Bulnes ordered the expedition after speaking with the Chilean libertador Bernado O'Higgins who feared an occupation by Great Britain or France. The first Chilean settlement was Fuerte Bulnes situated in a forested zone on the north side of the strait. Fuerte Bulnes was later abandoned and the city of Punta Arenas was founded in 1848 further north where the magallanic forests met the Patagonian plains. In front of Punta Arenas, on the other shore of the strait in Tierra del Fuego the village of Porvenir emerged during a gold rush in the late 1800's. Until the Panama Canal was finished in 1914, the Strait of Magellan was the main route for steam ships traveling from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, it was often considered the only safe way to move between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Protected by Tierra del Fuego to the south and the bulk of South America to the north, ships crossed with relative ease, removed from the dangers of the Drake Passage. The Drake Passage is the relatively narrow stretch of ocean separating Cape Horn (the southern tip of South America) from Antarctica, the waters of which are notoriously turbulent, unpredictable, and frequented by icebergs and sea ice.

Saturday 21st February, Punta Arenas, Chile.

We opted to go ashore in Punta Arenas and experience the excursion called "Punta Arenas Highlights", which was 3.5 hours long, and very enjoyable. The write up on this tour went as follows:

"Discover the charm of Punta Arenas on a comprehensive city tour. Drive through the main square, Plaza de Armas, to Cerro La Crus for a panoramic view over the city, the Magellan Strait. the port, and the legendary Tierra del Fuego Island. Your guide will explain some of the economic, cultural and social aspects of the Magallanes region. Continue to the Maggiorino Borgatello Museum, founded by Salesian missionaries and noted for excellent exhibits illustrating the habitat and history of Patagonia's Aboriginal people, as well as the region's natural history. At the next stop , the open air Patagonian Institute, see antique trains and machinery, plus books, prints and replicas of dwellings from the Colonial period. You'll also pass a cemetery lined by tall cypresses and splendid mausoleums of pioneer families. A solemn tombstone indicates the place where the last of the now extinct Ona Indians is buried".

Again we really enjoyed this trip, especially the museum as the replica dwellings were full of authentic tools, machinery and equipment of the day. The cemetery was huge, and contained large amounts of impressive mausoleums that were, for the most part, well cared for. Those that were dilapidated were probably as a result of families dying out, or moving away. There was a statue of "The Last Indian" and the guide gave us a comprehensive background to his story and how it was considered lucky to touch his hand or foot. Where so many have done this over the years the bronze has become highly shiny in both of these areas of the statue itself.

To give you a summary of the history of Punta Arenas:

Punta Arenas is the southernmost city in Chile and is also the most southern city of its size, just over 1400 kilometres north of Antarctica.

The city is the capital of Chile's Magellanes y la Antártica Chilena Region, an area named after Portuguese explorer Fernando Magellan who sailed near here in 1520.The name Punta Arenas didn't appear until the 17th century, however, when English navigation maps called this "Sandy Point" or, in Spanish, punta arenosa.

In 1848, the town of Punta Arenas was established as a military garrison. During its early years, this was a sleepy outpost with some fur and hide trading and mining, finally rising in status during the California Gold Rush as a last stop before ships rounded Cape Horn. Later in the century, an experimental herd of sheep from the Falkland Islands proved successful and soon European immigrants were drawn here by the wool market.

Punta Arenas' early connection with Magellan is not forgotten even today; a popular photo stop for travellers in Punta Arenas is a statue of the explorer who first successfully circumnavigated the globe and discovered the strait now names in his honour. A longstanding tradition holds that sailors crossing the Strait for the first time kiss the foot of the "Patagon" that sits beneath Magellan on the statue. And what is a Patagon? This mythical race of people, first described by Magellan during the circumnavigation journey, were said to stand as much as 15 feet tall. This myth provides the name for the region of Patagonia, one many believe is derived from the Spanish word pata or animals foot; Patagonia was then interpreted by many to be the land inhabited by "the big foot". Today some believe the "giants" the crew witnessed were the Tehuelche Indians wearing furs to keep warm in the severe weather.

Today Punta Arenas remains a main jumping off point from which to explore the natural wonders of Patagonia including Tierra del Fuego and Torres del Paine although the city offers many attractions of its own. For many travellers, a good first stop and the best place to gain an introduction to Punta Arenas is the Cerro La Cruz promontory. This vantage point offers excellent city views and good photo opportunities of the city and its many red roofed buildings with a backdrop of the Strait itself.

Within the city, travellers can learn more about the region at the Museo Salesiano de Mayonino Borgatello. Housed in a former mansion, this museum was started by Italian missionaries and today showcases the rich history of the region. Another favourite stop is the Centro Cultural, located in one of the many mansions that once graced the city during its heyday. Today the centre is filled with European antiques, a peek back at the lifestyle of the merchants and sheep barons that once fueled a booming economy here.

Shore Excursions Available in Punta Arenas.

Antarctic Landing.11 hours. Don't miss the chance to experience the beauty of a continent once used exclusively for scientific research, in comfort and safety. The Antarctic is a mass of land under a very thick layer of ice. Animals don't even live here because it's so isolated. Board a BAE-146 airplane and head south flying over the Strait of Magellan, the mythical Tierra del Fuego Island, Darwin's mountain range, Beagle Channel and Cape Horn. See the Drake Passage, the stretch of water that lies between South America Antarctica. Cross the Antarctic Convergence, where the southern oceans collide with the closed circumpolar Antarctic Ocean, the natural boundary of Antarctica. Then, your flight continues to King George Island, the largest of the 20 islands and islets that form the archipelago of the South Shetland Islands and final destination of your expedition. During this approximately 2.5 hour flight, learn about this magical continent, its history, geography, wildlife, politics, research and human presence. Special emphasis will be made not to add more stress to this fragile and unique Ecosystem (IAATO Guidelines of Conduct for Antarctica Visitors available on the website http://www.iaato.org/guidelines.html and provided on board). A brunch will be served on board. Finally, land at Frei Base managed by the Chilean Air force. The layout of the base may not seem appealing to the eye as it's situated on an ice free area of the island although the glaciers are in view and there may not be snow, but for logistical purposes, the less snow the better. Once again, all facilities on land are for supporting the research conducted by scientists, so don't be surprised at not finding upscale accommodations. There are no transportation facilities so all must be done foot, requiring participants to be physically fit. According to weather conditions on that day, you may visit the Base, take a one mile walk downhill on a dirt road or hop on a zodiac to visit a very special island. The island, Ardley, an SSSI, Site of Special Scientific Interest, is one of the most highly protected areas within Antarctica - three species of penguins breed there. Because Of Its status only 20 people are allowed on the island at a time (this has been determined by the scientists that work there) so relays are mandatory and you are accompanied by a certified Antarctic guide. Another possibility is to walk towards a beach that may be populated by southern elephant seals and Antarctic fur seals. All visits depend on the day's weather but the goal is to make the most of the approximately 5.5 hours that are spent on land. Longer time is not a choice due to the ship's departure time from Punta Arenas.

Torres del Paine National Park. 11 hours. Torres del Paineisa world-famous park in the Chilean Patagonian region. At an altitude of 150 feet above sea level with a peak reaching 9,840 feet covered by perpetual snow, it offers an exciting adventure. After an approximately 40-minute charter flight, your plane will land in Puerto Natales, where you'll board a motorcoach for an approximately two and a half hour drive to Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most spectacular scenic regions anywhere. You'll drive through rolling pampas, past shimmering lakes, roaring creeks, cascading waterfalls, sprawling glaciers and dense forests with abundant wildlife. Approaching the park you'll catch your first glimpse of the distinct peaks (Torres) from which the area takes its name. As you drive through this stunningly beautiful park, named a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 978, you'll see the jagged spires of mountains across Nordenskjold Lake. After lunch at a restaurant overlooking the lake, you'll continue to Salto Grande Waterfall. There you'll take a short hike to experience up-close some of the incredible natural beauty of the area. Then continue to the Laguna Amarga, known for its intense blue colour.

Punta Arenas & Fort Bulnes. 7 hours. Board your coach pier-side for a sightseeing drive around this bustling frontier town, the capital of the Magallanes Region. Discover the charm of the most southerly city in the world, situated by the Strait of Magellan. The tour takes you to the Plaza de Armas, the main square, and Cerro la Cruz for great panoramic views. Visit the Maggiorino Borgatello Museum, founded by the Salesian missionaries, which gives a comprehensive overview of the regional flora and fauna, the habitat of the indigenous people of the region and regional history. The next stop is the Museo del Recuerdo (Museum of Memories), located on the grounds of the Patagonian Institute. This open-air museum displays antique trains, machinery and relics of the first European settlers in this remote part of the world. Also part of this experience is a visit to the pioneer cemetery, with the avenues lined by tall cypresses and splendid mausoleums. A solemn tombstone indicates the place where the last of the now-extinct Ona Indians are buried.Then you'll head south on a very scenic road, always skirting the Strait of Magellan to a small 'hosteria,' where you'll be greeted with a typical Pisco and a horse-breaking show. Afterwards, enjoy a typical lamb barbecue with all the trimmings. After lunch, the tour continues to visit Fort Bulnes, the first Chilean settlement in Patagonia, founded in 1843, with only 21 inhabitants. This reconstruction will show you how these first men and women lived on this rugged land. You'll have magnificent views from the fort.

Trekking at Andino Park. 3.5 hours. Discover Patagonia, a place that brings images of windy and cold landscapes, and offers great views. First drive to Club Andino (Andean Club), a unique ski centre that is one of the very few in the world witha view to the ocean. It's also used in the Summer and makes for great trekking on the slopes, which are covered with Patagonian trees like coigues, lengas and nirres. Upon arrival at the club, get on a lift that covers a distance of approximately one mile, and see a nice view over the area. From the top of the hill, see the Strait of Magellan, and the city of Punta Arenas, in the distance. At the descent point, trek downhill on a path through the woods. At the end of your walk take a few minutes to have some refreshments amidst this relaxing landscape, before you return to your ship.

Magdalena Island & Penguin Reserve. 5.5 hours. A privately chartered ferry boat will take you to one of Chile's largest penguin colonies. Located on Magdalena Island, the site was declared a natural monument in 1982. Board the ferry boat for an approximately two hour journey north along the Strait of Magellan. This may be a rugged trip and enjoyment may depend on weather conditions. About one hour will be spent on the island to observe the Magellan penguins in their natural habitat. The island is also home to cormorants and seagulls. Since this is a wildlife reserve, there aren't any tourist facilities. Walking is on mostly flat, marked pathways. A substantial colony of Magellan penguins are nesting and breeding here. These penguins return every year to this spot between October and March to lay their eggs and raise their young. They bury their eggs in the sandy burrows and under shrubs; at this time of year most of the chicks will have hatched. The animals are naturally curious and untamed; if approached too quickly they will scamper into their burrows or try to reach the water. Following ample time to observe the birds, you'll walk back to the ferry and the navigation back to Punta Arenas, where your bus will be waiting to take you back to the pier.

Otway Sound & Penguin Reserve. 4 hours. Each year from October to March, Magellan penguins come to nest at Otway Bay and Otay Sound, about 40 miles northwest of Punta Arenas. Named for the straits on which they live, these fascinating birds nest in burrows they dig in the sandy southern shoreline. At the reserve, you'll walk approximately one mile across grassland interspersed with sandy areas to the penguin rookery by the seashore. the animals are naturally curious and untamed, and if approached too quickly they'll scamper into their burrows or try to reach the water. Do not attempt to touch them, as their bites can inflict serious wounds. A wooden partition with a special viewing spot separates the beach from the grassy area and the burrows. This is strictly a wildlife reserve without any tourist facilities. You'll have about one hour to enjoy and photograph these fascinating creatures before your walk back to the parking area.

Kayaking the Strait of Magellan. 3.5 hours. Today you'' navigate a well-known Strait of Magellan onboard a two-person sea kayak. First you'll be transferred to an area close to Catalina Bay for a short briefing on how to use the kayaks and safety instructions. Then you'll kayak until you reach a cove where you'll see Patagonian typical fishing boats used for fishing crabs, famous in this area. Continue kayaking back to the starting point where hot chocolate will be served. You'll change clothes before returning to the pier.

Visit to Olga Teresa Estancia. 7.5 hours. The estancia Olga Teresa was founded by French-Irish immigrants in the early 20th century, who established themselves as sheep farmers in the middle of the vast Patagonian pampas. Today, the estancia has opened its doors to a limited amount of visitors to demonstrate the art of living of these staunch farmers. Situated only 50 miles north of Punta Arenas, the estancia is reached in less than 2 hours by bus, and visitors enjoy the farm by the slopes of the Palomares Mountain, with an impressive colony of condors nesting in caves on the upper part of the mountain. Upon arrival to the farm, you are welcomed by the hospitable English speaking family, and taken on a tour, which shows the different activities of the farm. Huasos (Chileancowboys) will demonstrate their skills of rounding up a group of sheep with their well-trained horses and dogs, giving you excellent photo opportunities as they bring the crowd to a stop in front of you. You are then taken into the barn for a demonstration of experts shearing a couple of sheep right in front of you. Later, you proceed to the rodeo arena, where the same huasos on horseback show their skills in rounding up and controlling young cows. There will be an opportunity for a short ride in the arena after the demonstration. You'll then enjoy a barbecue of well-prepared, tasty Patagonian lamb, which has been grilled slowly for hours on poles around the fire. the meal also includes a welcome drink of the Chilean Pisco sour as well as baked empanadas, and wine or soft drinks to accompany the luncheon. The lunch takes place in a semi-covered shed outside, so bring warm clothes as the weather can be rather chilly. After lunch there will be a visit, for those guests who want to experience observing condors in their natural habitat, to a nearby mountain area where this giant bird nests. This visit implies some walking over uneven terrain.

City Tour & Austral Brewery Circuit. 4 hours. Leaving the pier, you'll stop at the beautifully landscaped Municipal Cemetery to admire the splendid mausoleums of pioneer families. You'll also see a gravestone marking where the last of the Onas, the extinct Fireland Indians, are buried. Proceed to the Braun-Menendez Regional Museum, located in the mansion of the same name. The museum is a national monument and was inaugurated in 1983 and traces the discovery, colonization and development of the Magallanes region through historical objects, illustrations and photographs. Continue your tour past the highlights of the city, and your next stop will be the Austral Brewery. Here, learn the history of the southernmost brewery on the continent through an educational video and afterwards, tour the installations. Your visit will end with a taste of beer at the bar located at the top of the building facing the sea. as you return to your ship, take in the panoramic view of Punta Arenas and the Strait of Magellan from the La Cruz Hill viewpoint. the last stop is at the Plaza de Armas square to see the Hernando de Magallanes monument and some of the quaint old buildings in the surrounding area.

Walking Punta Arenas. 3 hours. There are different ways of knowing a city but undoubtedly, a walking tour gets you closer to the locals, and to seeing things from a different perspective. Punta Arenas is a city of hard working immigrants who have struggled against the harsh nature of this southerly, end-of-the-world land. You'll walk along the same streets that these people have walked, visit some of the houses that they have inhabited, and also, enjoy the calm that music has brought to these tired minds, and bodies. Your walk begins at the pier, covering the distance between the port area and the regional museum, also called Braun-Menendez mansion, and a national monument designed and built by the renowned French architect Antione Beaulier in 1906. the mansion is a well preserved example of how the affluent families lived at the turn of the century and contains all of its original furniture, decor and memorabilia. Next, tour the mansion and visit the Plaza de Armas, the main square. This square is surrounded by buildings that remind us of the glorious past of the city. You'll also be able to browse the handicraft market that sells different souvenirs. Again, just across the street is the Union Club, the most exclusive club in town. It shares the same building as hotel Jose Nogueira. Visit the building and enjoy some tea and snacks while listening to classical music by a live group. After this relaxation moment, you'll return to the pier.

Tierra del Fueggo National Park
Tierra del Fueggo National Park

Sunday 22nd February, Ushuaia, Argentina & the Beagle Channel.

Like two other South American communities, Ushuaia calls itself the world's southernmost "city," a title that varies depending on the size it takes to be defined as a city. Ushuaia doesn't have the population of Chile's Punta Arenas which lies more northerly and it doesn't have the absolute southernmost location of the much smaller Puerto Williams, Chile. Whether or not this is the southernmost "city" or not, one thing's for certain: Ushuaia is the capital of Tierra del Fuego, a land that has captivated the imagination of travellers since it was spotted and named by Ferdinand Magellan.

Tierra del Fuego or "Land of Fire" is an archipelago spanning almost 30,000 square miles at the tip of South America, separated from the mainland by the Strait of Magellan. At the southernmost tip of Tierra del Fuego lie Cape Horn and the Drake Passage, the route used for centuries by clipper ships in transporting goods around the globe.

Originally this was the land of the Yamana Indians who fished and hunted in this often extreme climate, staying warm with numerous camp fires. It was the light of those camp fires that inspired the name Tierra del Fuego when Magellan, the first European to travel this region, witnessed the fires on his 1520 voyage.

Development of the region was slow due to its remote location, pirate attacks, and extreme weather. A whaling station was established at today's Ushuaia on what is now known as the Beagle Channel, a passage of water named for the HMS Beagle, the ship that brought naturalist Charles Darwin to the region. Eventually a prison colony was located at the site; the prisoners were put to work and helped create a town called Ushuaia, named for the native word meaning "bay towards the end." The prison, which was used to hold many political prisoners, remained operational until the 1940s when it was re-purposed as a naval base and today serves as a museum.

One of the projects of those early prisoners was to clear a line for a railway to transport timber. Today that railway continues to run as a tourist train; El Tren del Fin del Mundo or the End of the World Train is the southernmost rail line on the globe.

The railway is just one attraction in Ushuaia, a major jumping off point for Antarctica. The Museo Maritime and Museo Del Presidio, located in the former prison, cover both the history of the penal institution and the sailing heritage of the region with special exhibits on Antarctic exploration. The region's natural history is the focus of the Museo Del Fin Del Mundo, and the life of the area's aboriginal population is explored at the Mundo Yamana.

On nearby Isla de los Estados or Staten Island, the world's southernmost lighthouse, Faro del Fin del Mundo, remains although it hasn't been operational in over a century. The lighthouse was said to be the inspiration for Jules Verne's novel The Lighthouse at the End of the World -an appropriate symbol for this community which sits almost at the end of the earth.

The Beagle Channel is named after the British ship, HMS Beagle, under the command of Robert Fitzroy. The Beagle was exploring and charting the area in and around Tierra del Fuego when her crew first discovered this channel in 1830.

On the Beagle's second voyage, detailed scientific descriptions of the channel were provided by the naturalist on board, Charles Darwin. He wrote: "This channel is a most remarkable feature in the geography of this, or indeed of any other country. It may be compared to the valley of Loch Ness in Scotland, with its chain of lakes and firths ... throughout the greater part it is so perfectly straight, that the view, bounded on each side by a line of mountains, gradually becomes indistinct in the long distance."

The Beagle Channel is actually a fjord, created through erosion by a large glacier, which cut a deep, U-shaped valley. This valley has been partially flooded during the last 18,000 years as sea levels worldwide have gradually risen.

Travelling through the north west arm of the Beagle Channel, one sees spectacular views of the Cordillera Darwin as well as a series of internationally named glaciers.

There is the ESPANA GLACIER, one spectacular glacier, the first one sailing from west to east into the channel.

The ROMANCHE GLACIER is the only glacier here not named for a country. It was named for the French frigate Romanche, which, under Captain Luis Martial, was part of an expedition to Cape Horn in 1883. This glacier has great colour and a waterfall caused by melting underneath the glacier. You can clearly see the glacier receding, as the bare rocks have been "smoothed over" by the sandpaper effect of the glacier. The ground-up particles themselves are called "flour", and get carried along to the water. This flour stays suspended and is responsible for the green or turquoise colour in the water around the glacier.

The ALEMANIA GLACIER is a long, low glacier, tucked back and behind. With this glacier we see a good example of lateral moraine, which is the pile of dirt, rocks and sediment deposited by the glacier as it recedes.

There is the FRANCIA GLACIER. Here we see excellent examples of U and V-shaped valleys cut into the mountainside. If you see a V-shaped valley, it has been formed through erosion by a stream or river cutting through the hill or mountain. The U-shaped valley has been formed by a glacier. Because the trunk, or main glacier, carries a larger volume of ice than its tributaries, it typically erodes the valley to a greater depth. When the glacier recedes, the tributary valleys are generally elevated above the trunk valley, resulting in what are termed "hanging valleys". Waterfalls frequently develop where streams flow from the floor of a hanging valley to the trunk valley below.

In between the FRANCIA AND ITALIA GLACIERS, you will notice sharp ridges on the hill. Caused by the two glaciers working side by side, grinding down the hill, these ridges are called an "arete".

The beautiful ITALIA GLACIER is a tidewater glacier, as it comes right down to the water's edge. Here we see another good example of lateral moraine and beautiful blues.

The HOLANDA GLACIER is now seen in the distance. Its flat surface gives the impression that it is an ice field, but it is indeed a glacier.

The harsh, rugged terrain surrounding the Beagle Channel is matched by its harsh weather conditions. The average temperatures for this area in summer are 3-12°C

Behind the Cordillera Darwin are the plains of Tierra del Fuego, where guanaco (a type of llama) and yandu (a type of ostrich) are found.

Wildlife sightings here, in the Beagle Channel area, include otter (whose pelts the indigenous people used for clothing), fish, whales, and birds, like the condor and albatross.

Shore Excursions Available in Ushuaia, Argentina.

4 x 4 Off Road Adventure. Climb aboard your off-road vehicle for an encounter with the flora and fauna that is the heart of the End of the World. on board a Land Rover Defender jeep, leave Ushuaia pier and take the National route 3 heading north. Your adventure begins in this imposing glacial valley of Llanos del Castor, which is surrounded by impressive mountains. in your 4 WD vehicle, follow an old trail formerly used on the southernmost gas pipeline. The trail takes you into part of the Fuegian forest compound of Nothofagus. here you'll be able to have a closer look at the flora and land fauna of the Tierra del Fuego (land of fire). Admire the stunning landscapes and natural wonders that surround this area, said to be one of the most dramatic settings in the world. Your tour concludes at a mountain refuge surrounded by the Vinciguerra, Sorondo and Alvear mountain chains. A snack will be prepared while taking the last pictures of a wonderful day. Note: This tour is not recommended for those with back or neck problems due to the rough overland driving. Vehicles get stuck in the mud often. There are no restroom facilities.

Ushuaia in Depth. 5.5 hours. This tour combines the history and culture of Ushuaia, with a drive to the countryside. Admire the scenic beauty of the landscape and experience local cuisine. travel along the Pan American Highway toward the north side of the island. enjoy the view of the lakes and valleys of the region as you make your way across the Guegian Andes, passing forests, peat bogs and glaciers up to Garibaldi Pass at an elevation of nearly 1500 feet. The combination of water, forest and mountains creates perfect scenery. Along the way, you'll stop for a typical lunch of Patagonian barbecue lamb in a cosy local restaurant. Take in the views before re-boarding your coach for the drive back to Ushuaia. Finally, visit the first prison in Tierra del Fuego (1896). Learn about the building, the lives of the inmates, and some of its more notorious occupants.

Tierra del Fuego National Park. 4 hours. On this unforgettable ride though Tierra del Fuego National Park you'll discover nature at its best - impressive forests, meadows full with wildflowers and snow-capped peaks. This tour will give you the opportunity to view the splendid scenery of Tierra del Fuego National Park, its rivers, vegetation and peat bogs. After a 10-mile drive west of Ushuaia and across the valley from the River Pipo, you'll arrive at Tierra del Fuego National Park. This 150,000-acre park extends from the Beagle Channel in the south along the Chilean border to beyond Lago Fagnano in the north. Parts of the forest in this park were damaged by fires a long time ago and are today almost ghost-like, with stark pale grey trunks standing in contrast against the backdrop of lush green vegetation. Photo opportunities include Panoramic Point, Lake Roca and Lapataia Bay (weather permitting).

Wilderness Adventure Hike. 4 hours. Lace up your boots and hike Tierra del Fuego National Park unveiling its wilderness mysteries. Tierra del Fuego National Park is located just 10 miles west of Ushuaia. This 243 square mile park, extending from the Beagle Channel in the south along the Chilean border to beyond Lago Fagnano in the north, has one of the most beautiful cold forests in the world. Your hiking will render possible contact with native flora and wild fauna. Canelo or winter's bark, Maytenus Magellanica, the southernmost conifer in the world, and three kinds of Southern Beech; Nothofagus Antarctica, Nothofagus Pumilio and the evergreen Nothofagus Betuloides, cover the most humid regions and the coast of the Beagle Channel. These forests are unique in the world for having developed in a climate with such cold summers. Winds are so strong that trees in wind-exposed areas grow twisted, and people call them flag-trees'. By the coast, discover old Indian middens left by the ancient inhabitants of the area, the Yamanas, nomadic people whose livelihood was based on hunting, gathering berries and marine products. Your hike will end at Alakush Visitor Center, a good opportunity to rest and taste Ushuaia's hot chocolate before heading back to the pier.

Train at the End of the World. 3 hours. Enjoy nature at its best on a combination bus and train ride in the world's southernmost national park. You'll travel on the steam-engine-driven Tierra del Fuego Southern Railway, with train cars that have been modelled after earlier prison trains. During your narrated journey on the Train at the End of the World, you'll discover a part of Tierra del Fuego's legendary history. Cross the Pipo River, stop at the panoramic viewpoint of the Macarena Cascade, pass reconstructed Yamanas and Shelkman Indian camps, and ride through the Canadon del Toro (Del Toro Glen) within the Tierra del Fuego National Park. At the railway's turnaround point, board your coach and continue through the national park, marvelling at some of the area's scenic highlights, and making a short stop at Ensenada Bay. On the way back to your ship, you'll stop briefly at Club Hipico for a snack and a Gaucho performance.

Note: There are numerous steps to the Macarena Cascade overlook.; Optional Walk)

Horseback Riding to the End of the World. 3 hours. A short ride will take you to Relinchos del Hipico (Ushuaia's Horseback Riding Club), where you'll be directed to your designated horse and begin your journey across Tierra del Fuego, the uttermost 'End of the World.' You'll ride alongside the slope of Mount Susana towards the Beagle Channel coast, by the sea and through the forest, enjoying the pure air and a close encounter with Fuegian nature at its best. After the ride, you'll return to Club Hipico for a snack and a chance to sample the traditional Argentinian beverage named 'mate' before your return to the pier.

''Note: Participation is very limited. This tour is not recommended for guests with back problems. You must know how to ride a horse. The duration of the ride is approximately two hours. Sturdy trousers and closed-toe shoes recommended.

Raincoat and windbreaker are advised, A waiver form must be signed.

End of the World Prison & Train. 3.5 hours. Be part of Ushuaia's history. For most of the first half of the 20th century, the city was centered around a prison for dangerous criminals. Today you'll learn about the life of the prisoners during those days when they were the inhabitants of the 'End of the World.' Your first steps begin with a visit to the Old Prison Museum followed by a train ride on the Prisoners' Railway. By the beginning of the 19th century the Argentine government set up the Prison of Ushuaia where escape was practically impossible. The prisoners thus became forced colonists and spent much of their time cutting wood in the forest around the prison and building the town. They also built a railway to the settlement known as the 'Prisoners' Train' and the southernmost railway in the world. Dangerous convicts and well-known political prisoners made this prison famous until 1947 when it was closed. Following the prisoners' steps you'll take a train ride in the world's southernmost National Park. You'll travel on the Prisoners' Train, with cars that have been refurbished to offer the comforts the prisoners didn't have. During the narrated journey you'll discover a part of Tierra del Fuego's legendary history. At the railway's turnaround point, you'll board a motorcoach and continue a tour through the National Park, to Ensenada Bay, one of the area's scenic highlights before heading back to the pier.

National Park Trek & Canoe. 4.5 hours. Walk along easy paths and float aboard an inflatable canoe for an introduction to the rivers, lagoons and wildlife of Ushuaia's National Park and Beagle Channel.After entering the National Park, head to Lake Roca, where you will receive a short, informative talk before your paddle begins. We will take you along the lake to the crystal-clear waters of the Ovando River, emptying into the Verde Lagoon; the river is one of the most picturesque areas of the park. Approaching Lapataia Bay, keep an eye out for petrels, albatrosses, steamer ducks and penguins. Reaching Lapataia Bay, prepare yourself for a hike along some short paths in the area.During your approximately one-hour trek, your will appreciate the scenery, considered some of South America's most beautiful. Winter bark, fire bush and a variety of beech trees make for a camera-ready tableau.Transfer back to Lake Roca, where a picnic lunch will be waiting for you. Return to Norwegian Sun

Note: As this is an active excursion involving approximately 1-1.5 hours of walking, it is recommended for guests who are physically fit. All guests must sign an insurance release. Please wear comfortable walking shoes with tread. Wildlife sightings are not guaranteed. The order of sights visited may vary.

Golf at the End of the World. 3 hours. Earn bragging rights to have golfed at the very end of the world; not many golfers can claim that. 9-Holes, Par 70, Yardage 6,000, Ushuaia Golf Club is located about 4 miles away from the city of Ushuaia inside Tierra del Fuego National Park. Enjoy the opportunity to play at the 'End of the World' at this inspiring golf course, crossed by the Pipo River surrounded by stunning landscapes and jagged mountain peaks. It is said to be one of the most dramatic settings in the world.

Tierra del Fuego

Islas de los lobos and Isla de los Parajos.

The Lighthouse at the end of the World.
The Lighthouse at the end of the World.
Leaving Ushuaia
Leaving Ushuaia

My Cape Horn Certificate

Southern Elephant Seal, (Mirounga leonina)
Southern Elephant Seal, (Mirounga leonina)
Gentoo Penguin, (Pygoscelis papua)
Gentoo Penguin, (Pygoscelis papua)
Magellanic Penguin, (Spheniscus magellanicus)
Magellanic Penguin, (Spheniscus magellanicus)
Rockhopper Penguins.
Rockhopper Penguins.
George the pet Reindeer
George the pet Reindeer

Monday 23rd February, Stanley, Falkland Islands.

We decided it was well worth a trip ashore here, not least of which because of the history of the Falklands Conflict with Argentina. My Step Father James is also good friends with Port Stanley retired Fire Chief, so he was hoping to get an opportunity to look him up, (although sadly, as we found out, the friend was not contactable on the day, and by the time he would have been our ship would have quite literally, "sailed").

We decided to go on the "Stanley Highlights Tour", which was ever so interesting and explained all about the potential in investing in Falkland Island's oil and gold shares, as they know it is there, but can't access it until the remaining minefields from the 80's conflict are cleared and made safe. In fact based on this information James did make a small investment upon our return, and already his shares have taken a jump upwards, so a good tip for those of you who like to dabble on the stock market.

The tour also gave us lots of fascinating information on the islands themselves and the history, not to mention the wonderful community that reside there. We really enjoyed this trip, and highly recommend it. Below is the official information on the actual tour itself.

"Stanley Highlights. 2 hours. Learn the history of the Falklands as you visit the main sites in the company of your expert guide. You'll first stop to visit the Christ Church Cathedral, Stanley's only church, which features an outdoor sculpture formed by the massive jawbone from two blue whales. See the 1982 Liberation Monument, Government House, and 1914 Battle Memorial. Visit the fascinating Britannia House Museum, which documents much of the island's 154-year nautical history. Outside the museum and along the waterfront lay the abandoned hulls of several old clipper ships.

Note: Water, an information pack and a stamped postcard will be provided on this tour."

The fact that the capital city is referred to "Town" and everything outside the city is called "Camp" gives travelers a clue to the small town atmosphere that pervades the Falkland Islands. This remote group of islands (consisting of two large islands and many small islets) lies 300 miles from the coast of South America's Patagonia, a British outpost that's as unique as it is petite.

Although their English name is the Falkland Islands, the Spanish name for this island group is Islas Malvinas. It is a name derived from the French name Ties Malouine given to this location in 1764 by the French who first colonized these uninhabited lands. Spain soon drove the French out of the islands and later established a penal colony at Port Louis, eventually abandoning it. Argentina made a claim but then the British Navy took charge of the islands in 1833. Argentina's designs on these islands weren't over, however; in 1982 a military junta from Argentina occupied the islands for two months during the Falklands War which resulted in return to British rule.

Today the islands rely heavily on fishing (especially squid) as well as sheep farming. Although the human population here may be small, nearly 600,000 sheep populate the pastures of these many islands.

Tourism is a growing part of the Falklands' economy; visitors are drawn to the islands for their unique history, remote location, and many ecotourism opportunities. Located less than 600 miles from Antarctica, the Falkland Islands are an important stop for many ships who call here to view the wildlife. Five species of penguins, the world's biggest colony of the black-browed albatross, southern fur seals, elephant seals, sea lions, killer whales, and many other species make their home in these islands. Some of the top spots for nature watching are Sea Lion Island, Volunteer Beach, Penguin Walk, and Gypsy Cove, located near Stanley. The beaches at Gypsy Cove are plagued with landmines buried by Argentinean troops so they remain off limits to humans; the much lighter penguins can't set off the mines and enjoy the protected terrain as their home. Human visitors can view the birds from protected viewing sites.


The city of Stanley itself boasts many attractions, including several historic sites. The city dates back to 1843 and it became the capital of the Falklands just two years later. Named for Lord Stanley, at the time the British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, the city was an important port before the construction of the Panama Canal and has a long history as a ship repair port and as a whaling port.

The whaling heritage of the region is recalled at the city's Whalebone Arch, a popular photo stop that was created from the jawbones of two massive whales. The adjacent Christ Church Cathedral, built in 1892, is the world's southernmost cathedral.

The rich natural and social history of these islands is the focal point of the Falkland Islands Museum. The sometimes turbulent past of this location is remembered at two memorials: the Battle of the Falklands Memorial which honors a World War I naval battle here and the 1982 War memorial. Both recall the tumultuous times when these quiet, remote islands drew the attention of the world.

Shore Excursions Available in Port stanley, Falkland Islands.

Long Island Farm Excursion. 4 hours. Enjoy an approximately one-hour journey to Long Island Farm. Take in the fantastic scenery of East Falklands, passing close by a military radar site, Estancia Farm, to the head of Berkeley Sound, and learn about the historical Port Louis settlement. Long Island, situated approximately 20 miles from Stanley, is a 22,000-acre sheep farm that belongs to a 6th generation Falkland Island family - the Watsons - who still live and farm in completely traditional Falkland style. They farm using skilled sheep dogs and Falkland Island-bred horses, milk their own cows, make their own bread, butter and cream and use the traditional fuel peat, a custom that has nearly died out in the Falklands. There will be a sheep-shearing demonstration and an opportunity to buy some genuine Falkland wool, rated as some of the finest in the world. A horse gearing display will take place, explaining the horse gear and how the farm uses horses to work. At all times, there will be a delicious spread of tea, coffee, home-baked cookies and savories in the farmhouse kitchen with Mrs. Watson. There is a two-mile-long white-sand beach teeming with shore birds directly in front of the house, and you are welcome to stroll anywhere around the farm and discover how farmers live in the Falkland Islands. You can also view the domestic gardens, which are brimming with produce and furnished with timber from the French wreck 'Uranie,' which sank off Long Island in approximately 1829.

The Lagoon Bluff. 3 hours. This trip will give you a taste of traditional Falkland off-road driving skills and a view of typical sheep farming country. From the pier, you'll take the tour's mini-bus and be given a 20-minute guided tour along the surfaced road to the farm where you'll transfer to a 4 x 4 Land Rover to take you on a 30-minute off-road ride to the penguin rookery. En route to the Lagoon Bluff, you'll have excellent opportunities for panoramic photographs of Stanley and the outlying countryside, mountains, harbor and coastline. The road also passes by several stone runs - unusual rivers of stones that are typical of the East Falkland landscape. Once at the penguin rookery, you'll have approximately one hour to view about 1,000 pairs of gentoo penguins nesting by a beautiful sand beach. You'll see a growing colony of king penguins and their chicks, and Magellanic or jackass penguins, which nest in burrows close by. Skuas, gulls and snowy sheath bills hang around the rookery, hoping to take eggs or chicks from careless penguins. Upland geese, ruddy headed geese, Magellanic oyster catchers.Falklands flightless steamer ducks and many other birds nest nearby. The site is very photogenic, with a large lagoon and a long sand beach that is occasionally patrolled by sea lions from a nearby island. Dolphins occasionally play in the surf where the waves break on the beach. They can be watched from the Sea Cabbage Cafe, where you can enjoy home-baked treats.

Note: Minimal walking is required, although some is on uneven terrain from the Land Rover to the penguins. This tour is not recommended for those with back or neck problems or severe mobility restrictions, due to the rough overland driving. The weather here can be wet and windy. Wear sensible shoes so you won't slip and waterproof/warm clothes. Bring sunscreen too; you don't want to get burned by the wind and sun.

Falkland Islands Nature Trek. 3 hours. This is an exclusive opportunity to view endemic species of Falkland birds. Depart from the Jetty Visitors Center and head to nearby,
picturesque Hadassa Bay. Your Falklands Conservation guide will distribute a tour-specific illustrated checklist and give a general background on Falkland birds and what you might expect to see on this tour (approximately 20-30 different bird species). You'll walk over to the bay, where you'll view dark-faced ground-tyrants (Muscisaxicola Macloviana), Falkland thrush (Turdus Falcklandii Falcklandii), upland geese (Chloephaga Picta Leucoptera) and the beautiful long-tailed meadowlark (Stumella Loyca Falklandica). There are also great views of Stanley and your ship at anchor. In the bay, shorebirds such as the Falkland flightless steamerduck (Tachyeres Brachypterus) and rock cormorants (Phalacrocorax Atriceps Albiventer) will be spotted. Looking out to the sea, southern giant petrels (Macronectes Giganteus) and sooty shearwaters (Puffinus Griseus) swoop majestically by, while there is good chance of seeing peale's dolphins (Lagenorhynchus Australia) following tenders back and forth. In this beautiful bay, Magellan penguins (Spheniscus Magellanicus) burrow in the tussac grass and the black-throated finch (Melanodera Melanodera Melanodera) can be spotted. Looking back through the entrance to Stanley Harbor, there are great views of Stanley to be seen. Proceeding to Yorke Bay Pond, there may be an opportunity to view the internationally rare Botryshium Dusenii, (locally, it's only found on East Falkland, and is considered threatened). On this pond there may also be the opportunity to see speckled teal (Anas Flavirostris), Magellan snipe (Gallinago Magellanica) and silver teal (Anas Versicolor Fretensis).

Note: You should have a genuine interest in birds and walking, be physically fit and able to walk over rough terrain. Tour participation is strictly limited, but a minimum number is also required to run this tour. Don't forget your binoculars and camera! A donation will be made to the Falklands Conservation from this excursion. Please wear closed-toe shoes and bring rain gear.

Sparrow Cove Penguin Adventure. 2.5 hours. This is an exclusive opportunity to visit a huge penguin colony in privately-owned Sparrow Cove. It's home to approximately 1,600 gentoo penguins, and five pairs of breeding king penguins; you might even encounter a couple of Magellanics. You'll start from your ship, on a small tender that takes you for short journey to the pontoon at Sparrow Cove. The tour involves a 30-40-minute trip each way across country in four-wheel drive vehicles. You'll have approximately one hour to interact with the penguins, which are not afraid of humans; but please keep your distance, as they can also inflict painful bites. Experienced local guides will drive you through the rough island terrain. See other fascinating wildlife such as red-backed hawks, Falkland skuas, upland geese and the Falkland flightless steamer duck. There are fantastic views providing great photographic opportunities of Stanley and your ship along the way.

Note: Participation on this tour is extremely limited. The tour starts and ends from your ship and does not stop in Stanley. You'll walk approximately 100 yards across rough ground, as vehicles are not permitted closer to the birds. There are only basic toilet facilities and a shelter. This tour is not recommended for those with back or neck problems or severe mobility restrictions, due to the rough overland driving.

Falkland Battlefields. 4 hours. This tour takes in Fitzroy and three battle memorials depicting the fierce battle between Argentina and Britain. Your guide is a local battlefield expert who has lived in the Falklands for over 20 years and has dedicated much of his time to researching the 1982 conflict, meeting war veterans and hiking the once battle-fierce mountains and valleys. View the mountain battlefield sites where British forces fought tough hand-to-hand battles in conditions reminiscent of the First World War. Historically battle-rich sites will be viewed and discussed. Your main destinations are Fitzroy and Port Pleasant, where the British logistic landing ships were bombed by Argentine Skyhawk aircraft while transferring troops, ammunition and equipment. Here you can see memorials for the Welsh Guards and Royal Fleet Auxiliary; also, some personal memorials have been constructed on the hillside above. Tragically, more than 40 lives were lost here and many others were badly injured. The settlement of Fitzroy is part of what is primarily a sheep farm, but a process of diversification is currently taking place here. As on other farms around the islands, there will be a short call to this settlement to use the toilets. Returning to Stanley, if time allows, you'll turn west towards Moody Brook, where the Royal Marine barracks for the small detachment were situated until 1982. A small plaque is placed here in recognition of their services.

Ride to the Rockhopper Penguins. 3 hours. Ultimate Touring. View over 400 rockhopper penguins in their natural environment with stunning views of Berkeley Sound in the background. This is your one and only opportunity to photograph these cute penguins on your ships itinerary. You'll be picked up by your experienced local driver/guide in Port Stanley and driven 60 minutes to the penguin colony. Your journey will be in a comfortable 4x4 vehicle and will begin on the road to the Murrell Farm where it will then become an exciting overland experience, driving over the rolling peaty moor. This exclusive tour will take in views of your ship and Stanley also. These penguins have never before been available for viewing by cruise passengers. It is merely the building of the road that has now made them accessible. You'll have one hour and 20 minutes to photograph these penguins with only a small group of people along. A guide will accompany you throughout your visit at the penguin site. Refreshments and snacks will be served.

Seaquest Stanley Harbour. 2 hours. Come aboard the new 45-foot catamaran 'Seaquest' to take a cruise around Stanley Harbor and visit Gypsy Cove. This catamaran with a crew of two islanders is ideal for getting close to some of the shipwrecks that are beached around Stanley Harbor and to observe some of the wildlife that the Falklands are famous for, especially dolphins and penguins. Proceed up the harbor where your guide will point out all the areas of interest before approaching the wreck of the Jhelum. Then, pick up speed to motor through the Narrows and enter Port William where you'll see penguins and hopefully meet up with a pod of peale's dolphins. You'll complete a circular cruise around Port William travelling to Hells Kitchen, Mengeary Point, two Tussac Islands and on to Gypsy Cove before making your way back to Stanley Harbor. This area is abundant with wildlife. On entering Stanley Harbor you'll travel due east to get a close-up view of the wreck Lady Elizabeth (an iron boat with three masts built in 1879 in Sunderland). On your way back you'll see the floating dock Fipass and the remaining part of Stanley. Your expedition catamaran designed and built for the tourism industry has a large spacious heated wheelhouse which provides comfortable seating for twelve, a toilet and galley. Tea, coffee and water are available at any time.

Tuesday 24th February.

At sea, and enjoying the onboard facilities.

Wednesday 25th February, Puerto Madryn, Argentina.

We chose not to go ashore at Puerto Madryn, but to summarise some of the history, plus what would have been available as options if we had chosen to go ashore, I have posted the on board information provided below.

Puerto Madryn's wildlife—both on land and in the sea—draw visitors to this coastal Patagonian port city. Located on the Golfo Nuevo, this fast-growing city serves as a commercial port, a home base for ecotourists, and a weekend beach getaway for portenos, the residents of Buenos Aires,

Puerto Madryn dates back to 1865 when 150 Welsh immigrants arrived here aboard a ship named the Mimosa. The Welsh, in search of independence and autonomy for their Welsh customs and their language, landed here and founded a town named for Sir Love Jones-Parry, the Baron of Madryn. Eventually those early colonists moved on and founded other towns in the region. Welsh customs continue in practice today in communities such as Gaiman, just over 30 miles away, where traditions such as Welsh tea, Welsh building styles, and more live on. In Puerto Madryn, however, little remains of the early Welsh heritage.

Eventually a railway was constructed linking Puerto Madryn with the larger city of Trelew. The result was growth in Puerto Madryn, which became Argentina's second largest fishing port as well as home of the country's first aluminum plant.

Today tourism is another growing business in this city, known as Argentina's top scuba diving destination. Good visibility and plentiful marine life draw divers as do numerous shipwrecks such as the Emma, a ship used by Sir Ernest Shackleton in a rescue attempt during an early Antarctica exploration. Another very unique dive site features a time capsule sank by the citizens of Puerto Madryn, it is to be opened in 2100 by local residents. Divers can sign an underwater guest book at the site,

In Puerto Madryn, several land attractions showcase the region's undersea life. One of the most extensive is Ecocentro, where interactive displays highlight many of the sea's residents: right whales, dolphins, elephant seals, and more. The nonprofit educational institution is also home to a living tidal pool display. Also in the city, the Museo Provincial de Ciencias Naturales y Oceanografico highlights the region's marine ecosystem with hands-on displays and preserved specimens.

Along with diving, one of the most popular activities in the Puerto Madryn region is whale watching in the Golfo Nuevo. The rare Southern right whale can weigh as much as 100 tons and, although they're slow swimmers, they're known for their acrobatics with spectacular jumps out of the water.

The other side of the Golfo Nuevo is the Valdes Peninsula, a top stop for ecotourists in Argentina. This peninsula, protected as the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve of Peninsula Valdes, is home to about 40,000 elephant seals, as well as sea lions, fur seals, and guanaco, a camelid that resembles a llama. This arid area is also home to the mara, a large relative of the guinea pig that's considered the world's fourth largest rodent. Visitors to the peninsula also have a chance of spotting over 180 bird species including burrowing Magellanic penguins, pelicans, cormorants, the flightless rheas, and oyster catchers. Special observatories on the peninsula help visitors see the protected wildlife.

Shore Excursions Available in Puerto Madryn.

Note: Good transport is extremely limited in this part of the world, and we do our very best to obtain the best available for your sightseeing pleasure. Transportation is very basic. Air-conditioning, if any, is a bonus. A working microphone is an exception and not a rule. Most tours are on gravel roads, which are very bumpy and uncomfortable. If there are dry weather conditions, the ride becomes very dusty. Irrespective of the above, the best way to enjoy an itinerary as exciting as this, steeped in pristine beauty and with abundance of wildlife, is to be a traveler and not a tourist, and accept the challenges faced while traveling, which makes each country you have traveled a unique experience.

Great Patagonian Adventure. 8.5 hours. Enjoy this adventure and the most complete natural experience in Patagonia. Not only will you get to spend some time in a huge penguin reserve, but you'll be able to see one of the most important colonies of sea lions in the world and taste the famous Patagonian lamb. If you're lucky enough, there is even a possibility to spot an orca near Punta Norte. About 11 miles from Puerto Madryn you'll find one of the finest wildlife reserves in South America, Peninsula Valdez. Sea lions, seals, guanacos, rheas and many seabirds are present in large numbers in the beaches and headlands. Huge sheep 'estancias' occupy most of the peninsula's interior.

A 1.5 hour drive through a landscape of scant vegetation takes you to Punta Node, where you'll find the world's most important southern sea lions continental breeding colony. They're easily photographed, but should not be approached too closely. Then it's a short drive to Estancia San Lorenzo, on the north-eastern extreme of Peninsula Valdes, home to a huge penguin rookery. Here you'll transfer to 4 x 4 vehicles for the ride to Golfo San Matias were you'll find a large colony of Magellan penguins and their young. You'll have time to observe these fascinating creatures, learn about their habits and take photographs. You might even come across other wild fauna such as guanacos, choiques, hares and lots of different marine birds in this setting of extraordinary scenery. Back at the 'estancia,' you'll enjoy a typical barbecue lunch and learn some more about the fauna and flora of the area before your return drive to the pier.

Note: Tour involves a drive of approximately 240 miles roundtrip. Roads inside the peninsula are unpaved and rugged, which during the dry season can be quite dusty. To see the penguins, this stretch of road can be quite bumpy. Walking is on uneven gravel and stone paths. Bring a warm sweater or wind breaker as the temperatures can change rapidly in this area. Binoculars are also recommended.

Patagonian Experience. 6.5 hours. Driving through the Patagonian plains on a winding gravel road, you'll arrive at Punta Loma Reserve, located approximately nine miles southwest of Puerto Madryn. Here, from the lookout point, you'll be able to see the permanent colony of sea lions lying on the rocks, as well as the nesting site of cormorants at a distance of approximately 80 to 100 feet. The sea lions, when not sunning themselves on the beach, can be observed full of life and in schools, in hard-fought battles to win over the females or to mark out the individual territory of each male, sometimes performing wonderful pirouettes in the water or showing off their swimming skills. Then continue to the town of Trelew, where you'll visit the Paleontology Museum. A guided visit is rounded off by a documentary that combines both knowledge and entertainment. Your tour continues to the Welsh colony village of Qaiman, where you'll enjoy a Welsh tea with pastries at a typical tea house.

Punta Tombo Penguin Rookery. 7.5 hours. The drive to Punta Tombo is approximately three hours long each way, bumpy and dusty, but definitely worthwhile for penguin lovers who will have an opportunity to see thousands of penguins at close range. This is the largest penguin nesting ground in continental South America, and from September through March, this vast rookery and breeding area hosts hundreds of thousands of Magellan penguins, who arrive to fulfill the procreation of the species. During this time, other seabirds such as gulls, skuas, steamer ducksand oyster catchers invade the area, some of them being predators of penguin nests and chicks. Because these penguins are accustomed to humans, you'll be able to walk among the thousands of nests and marvel at this wonder of nature. You'll have approximately one hour to interact with these amazing creatures.

Peninsula Valdes Wildlife Sanctuary. 7 hours. Today explore Peninsula Valdes, one of the World's nature reserves and listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. The coastline is inhabited by marine mammals like sea lions, elephant seals and fur seals, penguins, orcas and southern right whales (from May to December.) Most of the peninsula is barren land with high cliffs on the borders and approximately 165 feet high with salt lakes on the inner part. The largest of these lakes is a depression of about 132 feet below sea level, one of the biggest depressions in the world. The central part of the peninsula is inhabited by rheas, guanacos (American camels) and maras (Patagonian rodents). A wide variety of birds including the Antarctic pigeon live in the peninsula as well. Sheep 'estancias' occupy most of the peninsula's interior. You'll visit Caleta Valdes on the eastern shore, a sheltered bay with a long gravel spit onto which elephant seals haul up in the spring. They are easily photographed, but should not be approached too closely. Guanacos sometimes stroll across the beach. Very close to Caleta Valdes, there might be a possibility to view a very small and new penguin colony, which is being established in this area. You'll then continue to watch a sea lion colony near Puerto Piramides before returning to the pier.

Exclusive Punta Tombo. 8 hours. This is the largest penguin nesting ground in continental South America, and from September through March, this vast rookery and breeding area hosts hundreds of thousands of Magellan penguins, who arrive to fulfill the procreation of the species. During this time, other seabirds such as gulls, skuas, steamer ducks and oyster catchers invade the area, some of them being predators of penguin nests and chicks. Because these penguins are accustomed to humans, you'll be able to walk among the thousands of nests and marvel at this wonder of nature. You'll have approximately one hour to interact with these amazing creatures. Note: This tour runs in a very small group and in the comfort of an air-conditioned minivan. You'll also enjoy a typical lunch at a restaurant in Trelew along the way. The drive to Punta Tombo is approximately two and a half hours long each way, on a bumpy and dusty road, but definitely worthwhile for the penguin lovers who will have an opportunity to see thousands of penguins at close range. Please be advised that although the penguins are not fearful of humans, you should not approach them, as they can inflict bites serious enough to require stitches.

Peninsula Valdes. 7.5hours. North of Puerto Madryn, across Istmo Carlos Ameghino, is Peninsula Valdes, one of the finest wildlife reserves in South America. You'll stop at the Visitors Center, where you can observe a small exhibit of local fauna and flora. From an observation tower, you can see across the desert landscape - Golfo San Jose to the north and Golfo Nuevo to the south. Sea lions, sea elephants, seals, guanacos, rheas and many seabirds populate the beaches and headlands. Sheep estancias occupy most of the peninsula's interior, which includes one of the lowest continental depressions in the world, the salt flats of Salina Grande and Salina Chica. In the Golfo San Jose, just off the Isthmus, is the Isla de los Pajaros (Bird's Island), a bird sanctuary off limits to humans but visible through a powerful telescope. Caleta Valdes, on the eastern shore, is a sheltered bay with a long gravel pit onto which elephant seals haul up in the spring. They're easily photographed, but should not be approached too closely. You'll continue to Puerto Piramides to watch a sea lion colony before returning to the pier. A traditional lunch will be served at Puerto Piramides.

Patagonia in Depth. 5 hours. Taking a winding gravel road, you'll arrive at Punta Loma Reserve, approximately nine miles south-west of Puerto Madryn. Here you'll observe a permanent colony of sea iions. They can be seen in hard-fought battles to win over the females or to mark out the individual territory of each male, sometimes performing wonderful pirouettes in the water or showing off their swimming skills. You'll continue to Estancia San Guillermo for a visit of a Patagonian ranch and a sheep-shearing demonstration. Snacks will be served. You'll then proceed to visit the Puerto Madryn Eco Center, a cultural space and an exhibition center where Patagonian sea life is shown to the public. A short ride will bring you back to the pier.

Thursday 26th February.

At Sea, still enjoying the facilities!

Leaving Montevideo
Leaving Montevideo

Friday 27th February, Montevideo, Uruguay.

I chose not go ashore at this port, but James did, and opted to enjoy the following tour. He thoroughly enjoyed the history of this, although sadly I don't have any photos to show you.

"On the Trail of a Legend. 3.5 hours. The drama and destiny of the legendary German battleship Admiral Graf Spee is still alive in Montevideo. Your guide will introduce you to the story of the Battle of the Rio de la Plata and you'll stop at the memorial which exhibits one of its anchors. You'll also see the buildings that suddenly became the center of the world's attention in December 1939 when British, German and Uruguayan authorities negotiated the destiny of the ship and its crew: such as the British and German Embassies. From the top of the 'Cerro,' Montevideo's characteristic hill, a splendid bird's-eye view of the bay and the town surrounding it, invites you to imagine the harbor startled by the 72-hour-stay of the damaged German war ship. You'll visit the Northern Cemetery where the 40 fallen German seamen were buried and the two graves in the British Cemetery of Montevideo where the British victims were buried. The tour's last stop is at the Naval Museum. On display are various items recovered from the German ship and the British cruisers, as well as one of the 150mm Graf Spee cannons and the telemetric equipment. Your return drive to the port will be along the coastline and its bright beaches."

To give you some history and information on Montevideo here goes: The capital of the country sometimes called the "Switzerland of South America", Montevideo is considered by many to be the most beautiful city on the continent. An excellent standard of living - estimated to be the highest in SouthAmerica - coupled with a high literacy rate, low crime rate and temperate weather make this growing city an increasingly popular destination.

European discovery of this region dates back to 1516 with the arrival of Juan Diaz de Solis. It would be a century later before colonization began in the region and that was wrestled over by the Spanish and the Portuguese. Not until 1726 was the city founded by Bruno Mauricio de Zabala; it was given the full name San Felipe y Santiago de Montevideo.

The origin of the name Montevideo remains open to speculation. Some believe it comes from the Portuguese term "Monte vide eu" or "I see a mountain" while others think it was a Galiciansailor who sighted the peak with a cry of "Monte vi eu". Others theorize the name is derived from a phrase on a Spanish map - "Monte VI De Este a Oeste" (the sixth mountain from east to west).

Through the years the city grew, as many European immigrants made this their new home. Today Montevideo, which includes nearly half of Uruguay's population, remains home to many residents of Italian and Spanish descent.

For most visitors, a focal point of the city is the scenic Plaza Cagancha, or Plaza Libertad. It lies on Avenida 18 deJulio, which is named for the day when Uruguay shed the rule of Argentina and Brazil. Here visitors and residents alike watch the activity of daily city life from the comfort of benches beneath tall palms.

A few blocks away lies the city's main plaza, Plaza Independencia. Here stands a statue of patriot and independence fighter General Jose Gervasio Artigaswho lies buried beneath the square.

This square is also home to the Teatro Solis, a replica of the Madrid's Maria Guerrero Theatre. Built in 1857, this is Uruguay's oldest theatre and today, following a recent renovation, it is a site of many of Montevideo's cultural events. Nearby stands the landmark building the Palacio Salvo, which soars 26 stories and, when completed in 1925, was the tallest building in South America.

One of the oldest attractions on this plaza is the Gateway of the Citadel. This is the last remaining portion of a wall that once surrounded the Old Town; the rest of the fortification was torn down in 1829.

Walking through the Gateway marks the entrance into Old Town, an area where narrow streets are lined with colonial style buildings. The focal point of the old town hall, a cathedral, and a museum tracing the history of this charming city.

Back at the waterfront stands one of Montevideo's liveliest attractions: the Mercado del Puerto. This old port building dates back to the 1860's; today it bustles with diners, shoppers, street musicians, tango dancers and artists, almost a symbol of this vibrant capital.

Shore Excursions Available in Montevideo, Uruguay.

The Best of Uruguay. 6 hours. Prepare for a memorable day of relaxation and enjoyment. After a short orientation tour around Montevideo, arrive at Estancia La Rabida, where a traditional Uruguayan family opens their home on a huge estate, boasting 650 milking cows, capable of producing 12,000 liters of milk daily. It has earned visits by official delegations and Agricultural Secretaries of State from several countries. Furthermore, the perfect blend of rustic simplicity and cultural refinement has made La Rabida the choice of Uruguayan Government when it entertains, offering distinguished guests an authentic glimpse of Uruguayan life. No artificial scenery exists, just fields that end abruptly in high cliffs on the coast of Rio de la Plata. A traditional asado (barbeque), witha wide variety of natural salads and national wines is served. You can go horseback riding (at your own risk), take a walk through the farm, enjoy bird watching, or just learn about the daily chores of gaucho life, such as sheep shearing and milking. However, the most remarkable aspect is the warm reception of the owners and staff during your field day at a truly unique place. Note: We recommend that you wear comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes.

A Visit to Punta del Este. 8 hours. With miles of sandy beaches, clear ocean waters and fragrant pine forests, Punta del Este is one of South America's most popular and fashionable destinations for the jet set. You'll drive along the chain of beaches fronting Rio de la Plata, pausing to enjoy the spectacular views at Portezuelo and Punta Ballena. You'll stop to see the outside of Casapueblo and to take pictures of the residence/studio of internationally renowned artist Carlos Paez Viiaro, The dazzling white complex, resembling Spanish-Moroccan architecture, is situated on a rocky bluff overlooking the ocean. Viiaro built it in 1958 with his own hands, using only traditional tools. Continue with a drive through the prosperous residential areas of San Rafael, Cantegril, Parque Golf and Beverly Hills. Next, you'll visit Fundacion Ralli, a museum whose unique architecture provides a wonderful setting for its dramatic collection of sculptures and paintings, predominantly by South American artists. Then, drive to La Barrato see its unique hanging bridges. Lunch will be served at a restaurant by the sea, and, if time permits, you may visit the shops and arcade galleries along the main avenue before returning to your ship.

City Sights & Lunch at Winery. 7 hours. This tour includes all that is in the 'Highlights of Montevideo' tour, plus a visit to one of the leading vineyards and wineries of this region. The privileged soil and micro-climateof this area has helped it become an excellent site for the culturing of grapes. Uruguayan wines compete every year on the world market and win prizes. This winery was born as a family business, placing great care in all stages of the process, starting from the vineyards and ending in wine. Some of the main cultivated varieties include Chardonnay, Merlot, Tanta, Tempranillo and Albarino. The Bouza winery was built using an old construction that dated back to 1942 and it was restored keeping the original design. Here, you'll be shown the process of winemaking and the traditional methods of bottling. There is also on display a huge collection of antique cars including Ford T 1926, Ford A, Citroen 1950, Alfa Romeo Spider 1960 and even a train wagon dating back to 1926. Then, enjoy a wine tasting and a barbecue lunch before returning to Montevideo.

Highlights of Montevideo. 3.5 hours. Montevideo, the modern capital of Uruguay, is the country's commercial, industrial and cultural center. Drive by Independence Square, with its impressive mausoleum and monument honoring national hero General Jose Gervasio Artigas. Continue along the city's main commercial street, Avenida 18 de Julio. General Jose Gervasio Artigas, with beautiful multi-colored marble interiors. Drive through the residential area of Carrascoon the outskirts of the city, with its white-sand beaches along the Rio de la Plata, mansions with red-tile roofs and neatly manicured lawns and gardens. A brief stop will be made at Plaza Virgilio, where you'll see a monument dedicated to the Fallen Marines and enjoy a panoramic view of the city before your scenic coastal drive back to the pier.

Jewish Heritage. 3 hours. This tour provides a view of Jewish immigration and life throughout the last century. The visit starts at the Old Town, where Jewish immigrants first settled at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, passing by Golda Meir Square and the Hebraica Maccabi Sports Center. It includes an inside visit to the Sepharadic and Ashkenazi synagogues and the main community center. Then it continues to the old synagogue, and the 'Goes' area, to see the colorful housing projects built in the early 1920s by real estate developer Emilio Reus. The last part of the tour is a glimpse at present day life: Pocitos residential area and the Jewish Schools. The tour ends at the Holocaust Memorial, the only one of its kind in South America.

Artistic Montevideo. 3 hours. Montevideo is an eclectic mix of architectural influences, with some amazing buildings dating back to very prosperous times. The city is also an open-air exhibition of monuments and sculptures, as well as being home to museums displaying the wonderful work of Uruguayan artists. Stop at Constitution Square to find the best-preserved buildings from the Spanish Colonial period, including the Town Hall, the Spanish Neoclassical Cathedral, and examples of the Italian influence in architecture like the Uruguay Club and the sculptural water fountain of Gianni Ferrari. A short distance away, a visit to Jaquin Torres Garcia Museum reveals the work of Uruguay's most influential artist. Not only has Torres Garcia created an art school, but his work is the highest priced among Uruguayan artists in the world's most important art auctions. You'll visit the Visual Arts Museum, the most comprehensive collection of Uruguayan artists since 1850.

Historic Walking. 3.5 hours. Enjoy the quaint charm of the Old Town, walking along its narrow streets and admiring the development of architecture and arts in the 19th and 20th centuries. During Montevideo's times of prosperity, some impressive structures were built here. Visit the Museo de Artes Decorativas, the palatial home of the wealthy Taranco family designed by prestigious French architects. Continue to Plaza Zabala and see the Museum of National History. A stop will also be made at Constitution Square, to browse through the stalls of the Flea Market around the Plaza and find the best-preserved buildings from the Spanish Colonial period. Then walk by the Cabildo (Town Hall), the Cathedral and Uruguay Club. You'll visit the Solis Theatre, built in 1842 and recently restored to its old glitter; this impressive building is now the center of Montevideo's artistic activities. At Independence Square, you'll see the former Presidential Palace and Salvo Palace. At the end of your walk, your coach will be waiting to drive you back to the pier.

James enjoys a snack in Buenos Aires
James enjoys a snack in Buenos Aires
A final toast before we return home.
A final toast before we return home.
Gemima the duck marvels at the size of this "side dish" of Ceasar Salad!!!
Gemima the duck marvels at the size of this "side dish" of Ceasar Salad!!!

Saturday 28th February, Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires or, in English, "fair winds" was named for a Sardinian sanctuary called "Nostra Signora di Bonaria" or "Our Lady of Good Air."

Located at the mouth of the Rio de la Plata, Bueno Aires dates back to 1536when it was founded by Spanish explorer Pedro de Mendoza as Ciudad de Nuestra Senora Santa Maria del Buen Ayre or "City of Our Lady Saint Mary of the Fair Winds." These early settlers were gone within just a few years, however, driven away by the indigenous residents. Forty years later, another settlement was established by Spanish conquistador Juan de Garay. This became a permanent settlement, one that specialized in trade.

During that time, all exports from the Spanish territories in South America to Spain had to first pass through Lima to pay taxes. This law caused Buenos Airesto develop as a contraband port, a lucrative position which led to the eventual development of the city. Finally in 1776 Spain recognized the importance of the city in international trade and made it the capital of the new Vice royalty of the Rio de la Plata, an area that included Paraguay, Uruguay, and even the valuable silver mines at Potosi.

In spite of its new status, the people of Buenos Aires, especially the colonists born in Argentina known as criollos, were dissatisfied with Spanish rule. When Napoleon invaded Spain in 1808, Buenos Aires decided to claim its independence and did so in May 1810.

Today that move to independence is recalled at the Plaza de Mayo. Here an obelisk marks the first anniversary of independence. On the east side of the plaza lies Casa Rosada; inside this pink building lies the presidential offices. Adjacent to the plaza stands the Catedral Metropolitana, the main cathedral in the city. Inside lies the tomb of General Jose de San Martin, one of the leaders for Argentinean independence.

Visitors can learn more about the movement for independence at the Argentine National Museum of History or the Museo Historico Nacional. Another top museum in the city is the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aire or Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, also known as MALBA. This modern art museum is considered one of Buenos Aires's top attractions and contains works by top Latin American artists including Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo.

Another important attraction for many international visitors is the Museo Evita which documents the life and career of Maria Eva Duarte de Peron, better known as Evita, the wife of Argentine President Juan Domingo Peron. Here exhibits on the woman known as the "Spiritual Leader of the Nation" include everything from her role as founder of the Female Peronist Party to her personal items and wardrobe.

No visit to Buenos Aires would be complete without a look at the tango, the passionate dance that grew to be a symbol of the country during the years of Peron's presidency. The dance originated in the southern barrios of the city but today it is seen in plaza and restaurants throughout the region, a symbol of the vibrant pulse that beats in this capital city.

Shore Excursions Available in Buenos Aires.

Tigre Delta & River Cruise 6.5 hours. Travel through Avenida del Libertador, the most beautiful access to downtown Buenos Aires, and through the narrow streets of the residential suburbs of Vicente Lopez, Martinez, Olivos, San Isidro and Acassusso, with their yacht clubs and gorgeous mansions before you reach Tigre. For more than 100 years, the maze of rivers and channels of the Tigre Delta have been a favorite weekend getaway for 'portenos' (Buenos Aires inhabitants). Then, leave the bustling city behind and enter a world that has hardly changed since the 1920s. Departing from the pier, on board a typical 'island launch,' explore the islands traveling along channels and streams. Along the way, enjoy the views of fabulous riverside villas, Victorian docks, English gardens, and traditional rowing and boating clubs. Then, you'll stop at one of the island restaurants for lunch. Once back to Tigre's pier, you'll reboard your coach for a drive back-to the city and-io the international airport or to your NCL program hotel, where the tour ends. Note: There are some steps getting on and off the launch and some cobblestones in San Isidro. This tour is available for guests departing after 7:00 pm or guests with an NCL program hotel.

.

Best of Buenos Aires. 8 hours. Enjoy an approximately two-hour sightseeing tour of Buenos Aires, including a stop at La Boca, famous for its multicolored tin houses and streets lined with colorful bars. Here, artisans display their crafts and musicians perform in the streets. You'll drive through the charming streets of San Telmo and Recoleta. Continue to Plaza de Mayo, the city's main square, where you'll see the cathedral, the Casa Rosada (Presidential headquarters) and El Cabildo (Colonial Town Hall). Then, it's off to an estancia located on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, to experience the flavor of the 'Pampas.' You'll be welcomed with empanadas and a glass of wine or juice before enjoying a barbecue lunch, followed by a folkloric Gaucho Show and the typical Ring Race before departing to the airport or hotel. Note: This tour is only available for guests with flights departing after 8:00 pm or for guests with an NCL program hotel.

Buenos Aires Highlights. 5 hours. Get acquainted with Buenos Aires' major neighborhoods and attractions. You'll see the main square, Plaza de Mayo, surrounded by the Presidential Headquarters Office, the Colonial Town Hall and the cathedral. You'll also drive through the charming streets of San Telmo and down the colorful streets of La Boca, famous for its multicolored tin-roofed houses. Take in the sights of the elegant Barrio Norte on your way to Recoleta, an amazing above-ground cemetery lined with mausoleums, statues and Eva Peron's final resting place. Finally, drive through Palermo and see its magnificent mansions and parks. Enjoy a typical lunch at a local restaurant before departing for the airport. Note: This tour is only available for guests with flights departing after 5:30 pm or for guests with an NCL hotel package.

Conclusion.

I do sincerely apologise to those of you that found this hub simply way too long to read properly. My guess is that it will be best suited to those who are seriously considering going on such a cruise, or even just planning to tour South America on land.

Much of the information contained in this article should be credited to NCL (Norwegian Cruise Liners), themselves, as I reaped the knowledge from the sheets they provided us with daily in our staterooms / cabins, (my memory is not so good that I could have done it without them I can assure you).

It is my intention to add video clips filmed by me to this article, but as my laptop computer (which has the only appropriate connection for my camcorder), is out of action right now, I shall have to add the actual clips in a week or two's time. I do hope you will consider this hub worth revisiting in order to view these clips, as they will bring to life the whole experience of travelling around South America, (especially when you see the Sea Lions and the Cormorants).

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Comments 31 comments

Tatjana-Mihaela profile image

Tatjana-Mihaela 7 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

Beautiful trip .I did not read all Hub, I have to admit, only beginning and end plus photos, especially that ones of the nature!

You look so young, like beautiful, happy girl, without any worries!


The Old Firm profile image

The Old Firm 7 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

I spent the late afternoon here reading this article from go to whoa misty. A magnificent trip, you must have had a wonderful time. I'm suitably envious.

Regards, TOF.


rvsource profile image

rvsource 7 years ago

Misty,

What a great hub!

To put all these pictures in and the descriptive words must have taken some time.

I scanned through the paragraphs for now, but studied the pictures. There is some awsome photos in this blog. The wildlife pictures are particularly good. I have to be honest though. I think the very first picture with you on the deck looking off into the sunset is the best one.

I'll come back and read more of the blog later.

Jeff


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Guys, I know it is rather a huge hub to read all at once, and the credit for much of the text does belong to NCL's own information given to us on the ship, although it took a good while going through it all and copying the relevant bits out. Glad you liked the photos too, and apart from the ones with me in them, all the rest were taken by me. The viedo will be even better once you see the living breathing flora and fauna. :)


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

Oops, double-posted the comment by mistake!


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

This is a terrific hub, both the copy and the pictures are EXCELLENT! One little suggestion: it seemed to be too long for one hub. Could you break it down into more than one? I think your readers would follow you to each installment.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Paradise, I guess it could be done, but what a lot of work to change it now. I agree it is rather long, but hope that people will revisit it in order to read the full text over several sessions. Glad you enjoyed it though, and thanks for the comment :D


ocbill profile image

ocbill 7 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

well, it inspired me to get down further south and see some more nature besides Brazil. I always wante dto go to Argentina and Chile. Now, I have some specific places to go.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Aww, thanks ocbill, I am sure you will love it, and the wildlife and scenery are truly awe inspiring. :)


pjk_artist profile image

pjk_artist 7 years ago from Turkey Point, ON

mistyhorizon2003 says:

Glad you liked the photos too, and apart from the ones with me in them, all the rest were taken by me.

pjk_artist says:

What I can't decide is if you are more attractive in your glamorous profile photo or in those from which your more natural radiant beauty shines. Are you a Dove girl?


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Ahh, what a sweet thing to say Pjk. Thank you. What is a "Dove Girl" by the way?? :D


pjk_artist profile image

pjk_artist 7 years ago from Turkey Point, ON

"Dove Girls" are women who's natural beauty is so radiant that they rarely wear makeup. Her skin is so smooth and soft that a mere smile will make men do the stupidest of things to impress her. The Dove soap company (1/4 moisturizing cream) put out a series of commercials a few years ago and created the term.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Now I see, and am blushing at the lovely compliment. Actually I very rarely do wear makeup, usually only on Friday and Saturday nights out, so maybe not wearing it has benefitted my skin by not suffocating it. Thank you so much again for boosting me up for the day pjk :)


pjk_artist profile image

pjk_artist 7 years ago from Turkey Point, ON

>mistyhorizon2003 says:

>Now I see, and am blushing at the lovely compliment. Actually I >very rarely do wear makeup, usually only on Friday and >Saturday nights out,

PJK - Is that when you hit the pubs looking for chicks?

>so maybe not wearing it has benefitted my skin by not >suffocating it. Thank you so much again for boosting me up for >the day pjk :)

PJK - Glad I could make you feel good inside. After the "Lesbo-hub" I felt like I owed you. ;o)

-Pete


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

LOL Pjk, interesting if somewhat confusing reply !!!


pjk_artist profile image

pjk_artist 7 years ago from Turkey Point, ON

To Clarify...(or to explain my weird sense of humour)

When you wrote the hub "Ladies, Do you fantasize about sex with other women?" it leads one to think that this sort of thing must be on your mind...so that's why its funny when you say you only get "dolled up" on weekends and I said you must being doing it in an effort to "pickup chicks".

So. Yes. Upon further reflection perhaps its not funny...can I retract the comment and just say...

"Gosh yur pretty!"


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

LOL, of course you can PJK, I never reject a compliment :) Thanks


Emme West profile image

Emme West 7 years ago

great pictures and trip! Those penguins are incredible!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Emme, wait until you see the camera footage too, as the sea lions and the cormorants are amazing on there. I shall upload the footage in a week or two once I get my laptop back, or when I manage to borrow another one from somewhere.


gwendymom profile image

gwendymom 7 years ago from Oklahoma

very nice. I to didn't read the whole hub but the days activities. Sounds like you had a great time and the pictures were beautiful. I am so glad to got to have this experience.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Gwendy, it was great, and I know the hub is a little long, but at least you got the general idea of what it was like. :)


lolly 6 years ago

we are taking this trip in 50 days..from Canada to copacabana thru chile, Argentina, brazil,Falklands..cant wait!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

You will love it Lolly, and thanks so much for posting here. If you remember please come back here and post your experiences. Sounds like your trip is a little different, but just as good, (we didn't go near Canada, Copacabana or Brazil, the other places we did visit, essentially Santiago to Bueno Aires, well worth the trip though).


myawn profile image

myawn 6 years ago from Florida

Lovely photos love the seals and penquins a little long but well worth reading. I felt like I was there.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks myawn, so much to squeeze in it would have been really hard to make it much shorter, but I am glad you enjoyed it.


tristand profile image

tristand 6 years ago

Fantastic post. I'm heading to South America for a few months with friends, and this is just the sort of information I've been looking for. I'm voting up!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Tristand, I am sure you will just love it. Have fun :)


GetitScene profile image

GetitScene 4 years ago from The High Seas

Sounds wonderful!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Oh it really was GetitScene, I would definitely do it again in a heartbeat. Thanks for commenting :)


tastiger04 profile image

tastiger04 3 years ago

Fantastic photos!! I would love to go on a cruise in South America. Thank you for the awesome variety of information! voted up and interesting :)


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 3 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Delighted you enjoyed this tastiger04, if you ever get the chance to go for yourself I highly recommend it. An unforgettable holiday (and experience of a lifetime).

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