South America

Guide to Small Ship Cruising in South America

Laura Pattara

Laura Pattara  |  4 January 2018

For a unique and off-the-beaten-path travel adventure

For a unique and off-the-beaten-path travel adventure in sublime comfort, explore South America’s magical highlights aboard a luxury small cruise ships.

Small ship cruising in South America offers an incomparable travel experience. Aside from the fact that you can visit some of the most remote treasures of the continent, some of which are inaccessible by road, a small ship cruise can offer you the chance to see big-name attractions, from a totally different perspective.

Whether you dream of meandering your way through the maze of natural wonders of the Galapagos Islands, wish to explore the Amazon in luxurious comfort or want to feel totally insignificant when standing, in awe, right at the base of one of the world’s most majestic glaciers in Patagonia and Antarctica, small ship cruising in South America will WOW you in a myriad of ways.

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Who is suited to small ship cruising in South America?

The ease of travel and comfort makes small ship cruising suitable for everyone. Safe for children and conveniently comfortable for their grandparents, small cruise ships bring you some of the continent’s most fascinating (and remote) destinations right in front of your eyes. For this reason, cruising also appeals to those with less time to tour, getting you to out-of-the-way places much faster than by road. And although all destinations offer plenty of chances for active excursions (either by zodiac or canoe) you don’t have to be super active if you don’t wish to, although we bet you’ll want to be. Primarily, however, small ship cruising in South America suits the nature lover, the lover of spectacular landscapes, pristine wilderness and elusive wildlife. The one who wants to experience the most breathtaking destinations in this eclectic continent, in comfort and style. Our small ship cruises feature gorgeous vessels with spacious outdoor decks for optimal viewing, plush indoor lounge areas and light and airy luxury cabins with all the mod cons you could never enjoy otherwise, in such remote locations.

Moreover, South America rates as one of the most rewarding, relaxing and enjoyable cruising destinations in the world, a place where sea-traffic congestion simply doesn’t exist. If you’ve ever cruised the Mediterranean in summer, you’ll know exactly what we mean.

Many times, when cruising South America’s hidden treasures, there won’t be another cruise vessel in sight.

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Here are just of the magical places you can visit, in South America, aboard a small cruise ship:

Small ship cruising in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

One of the world’s premier wildlife-watching destination, the Galapagos Islands can be explored on island-hopping tours but are infinitely better experienced aboard a small cruise ship. Considerable distances between islands mean that on a Galapagos small ship cruise, you can spend your nights sailing and your days exploring stunners like Genovesa and Espanola. Between the on-land hiking to meet inquisitive creatures and to soak up stunning viewpoints, and snorkelling or diving trips to frolic with unique marine life like hammerhead sharks, turtles, seals and more, the Galapagos Islands offer a truly interactive experience and you’ll really want to squeeze the most out of every sunlight hour. That’s why small ship cruising is just tailor-made for this exceptional destination. Budget cruising tours are also available.

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Small ship cruising in the Amazon Rainforest, in several locations

Much like the Galapagos, the Amazon jungle also offers much in terms of on-land explorations. However, and as opposed to the Galapagos, hiking in the Amazon can be an arduous experience. And if you can only travel here during the big wet season – aptly named ‘high water season’ – access inland is heavily restricted. And that’s where small ship cruising comes in and saves the day. Travel here at high-water season, jumping on-board in stellar locations like Manaus (Brazil) and Iquitos (Peru) and you can explore further than ever aboard your vessel. Particularly suited to those who are, let’s say, a little icky about coming too close to all those wonderful exotic critters, small ship cruising in the Amazon offers an incredibly comfortable, rewarding and sanitized Amazon experience. You’ll always have the option of fabulous excursions on canoe and walks on land, but you don’t have to in order to soak up a comprehensive jungle experience.

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Small ship cruising in Patagonia, Chile  & Argentina

The dramatically beautiful southern region of South America offers arguably the most eclectic mix of small ship cruising destinations in South America. From the mesmerizing Chilean fjords to the west to the incredible hidden treasures of Tierra del Fuego – where a new colony of King Emperor Penguins was established just a few years ago – Patagonia is a cruising playground of impressive proportions. Our Discover Patagonia Cruise is designed to take in the best of the region by sea, starting in Ushuaia  and exploring the fjords west before reaching Punta Arenas, home to a colony of Magellanic Penguins that’ll leave you speechless. This 4-day trip is not only soul-reviving but a brilliant add-on to any overland torus through Patagonia.

Because if you’ve come this far…why stop there?

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Small ship cruising in Antarctica, from several locations

The great White Continent at the very south of our planet is the most enigmatic and sought-after small ship cruising destination of all. A fantastical world of ice and wildlife, Antarctica is like no place you’ve ever visited, or will ever visit. The one place that really brings home the unrivalled benefits of small ship, as opposed to large ship, cruising. Aboard smaller vessels you can explore smaller cover which larger vessels can’t reach, you’ll be faster disembarking at landing sights, will have to spend less time waiting for others and will simply have a much more intense, intimate and unforgettable experience. In places like Antarctica, as well as some on the Galapagos, large cruise liners are not allowed to even dock, so their passengers have to be satisfied with simply admiring the landscape….not set foot on it. And the way we see it, these kinds of cruising expeditions are too precious (and pricey!) to ever compromise the experience. Getting here and not setting foot on Antarctica would be soul-crushing.

Antarctica Boasts several cruising departure and arrival ports, with the most popular being Ushuaia, at the very southern tip of the continent. Read more about the costs of a cruise to Antarctica and different options for visiting.

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At Viva Expeditions, we offer an exhilarating array of small ship cruising to South America’s best destinations. We have vessels and itineraries to suit varying tastes and budgets and we can tailor-design an itinerary that combines on-land tours and cruising, as in our superbly comprehensive Enchanting South America Group Tour + Antarctica. this month-long journey of discovery covers the continent’s major highlights, including Iguazu Falls, Machu Picchu, the Amazon Jungle and Antarctica. A bucket-list worthy contender, if ever you could find one!

Want to know more? Contact us today and we’ll help design a bespoke South America tour itinerary that’s just right for you.

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