From the Amazon Rainforest to the fjords of Patagonia, dynamic Rio de Janeiro to historic Lima, South America offers diverse options for cruise holidays. See the remarkable ruined cities of the Mayans, Incas and Aztecs and the colonial heritage of the Spanish and Portuguese settlers, or focus on the continent's natural wonders including the world's largest rainforest and highest waterfall at Angel Falls.
South America cruises cover all of the major coastal areas, or you can head inland on a river cruise down the Amazon, Orinoco and other major waterways. See even more of the region with a cruise to the Galapagos archipelago and Easter Island.
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South America Cruises
- Currency - every country in South America uses different currency, so if you will be visiting a number of destinations the most convenient options are credit cards and US Dollars exchanged for local currency.
- Population - there are 387.5 million people living in the 13 countries of South America, 201 million in Brazil alone. The continent is predominantly a mix of the descendants of Portuguese and Spanish colonists and indigenous peoples, with Peru and Bolivia having the highest proportion of people with indigenous heritage.
- Language - Portuguese is the most widely spoken language in South America as the official language of Brazil. Spanish is the primary language in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela, and many people speak English as a second language.
- Time Zone - South America spans several time zones, from UTC-5 in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru to UTC-3 in Argentina, Suriname and Uruguay. Different regions of Brazil are located in different time zones.
- Weather - South America has a diverse climate, with even individual countries experiencing extreme variance in weather. The Amazon Basin has a hot and humid tropical climate year round, while coastal conditions are generally more comfortable. Southern areas of Argentina and Chile experience a sub-tropical climate, with the southernmost point of the continent lying just 1,000 kilometres from Antarctica.
Did you know..?
South America is a land of extremes, home to the world's largest rainforest and largest river (in terms of volume) as well as the tallest waterfall, longest mountain range, highest capital city and most arid desert in the world.
Who goes there?
Many international cruise lines operate routes between South America's coastal cities. These include Princess Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, which specialise in luxury tours, and Royal Caribbean and Costa Cruises that offer shorter trips of several days.
Eco-friendly river cruises of the Upper Amazon are offered by Aqua Expeditions, while adventure-oriented lines such as Lindblad Expeditions combine the Amazon with other sights of interest, including Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands.
Best time to go?
November to March is high cruise season for coastal South America, though warmer regions and the Galapagos can be cruised all year round. Most cruise lines operate on the Amazon during the dry season from June to November.
Things to See and Do
- Brazil - see the many sides of Brazil by visiting the lively city of Rio de Janeiro, the beaches of Fortaleza and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed architecture of historic Salvador de Bahia. Brazil is a common starting point for cruises of the Atlantic Coast, with routes continuing to Mexico and North America.
- Amazon River - the Amazon passes through 3 countries and can be joined with a cruise at various points. For an introduction to the river and the rainforest, Princess Cruises and other cruise lines make the round trip from Manaus in Brazil, or you can head deeper into the wilderness with Aqua Expeditions' nature-themed river cruises in Peru.
- Round the Horn - make the time-honoured journey around the most southerly point of the world's most southerly continent, stopping off in historic ports in multiple territories from Argentina and Chile to the British-claimed Falkland Islands. Admire the arctic beauty of the Chilean fjords and visit the nesting grounds of penguins for one of the most memorable experiences of your South American trip.
- Galapagos Islands - nature lovers have the chance to visit the islands that enthralled Charles Darwin on a round trip from Ecuador. Have a close encounter with marine iguanas and giant tortoises or enjoy world-class diving.