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Put South America cruise on your bucket list

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The 951-foot Golden Princess.

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The 951-foot Golden Princess.

If you have a bucket list it's probably constantly changing, like mine is. One cruise destination that should stay there is South America.

There's a multitude of choices to and around South America, from return trips that include the Amazon to lengthy rides along the Chilean coast to Cape Horn and north along the Argentina coast.

Surprises are everywhere, such as the size of the penguin colonies, birds and animals that exist nowhere else, and mighty fiords.

Uruguay, a tiny country tucked away between Argentina and Brazil, offers so much, from bustling Montevideo with its architecture ranging from art deco to art nouveau and modern, to outstanding steak houses and some of the finest beaches at Punta del Este.

On the traditional two-week Valparaiso (Santiago, Chile) to Buenos Aires cruise, both major cities are worth an extended stay, showcasing the wondrous diversity South America is known for.

You'll see guanacos (small llamas) and rheas (birds that look like small ostriches) and the stars of the show -- penguins, millions of them.

Punta Tombo is one of the most important Magellanic penguin preserves. It's a long drive to and from Puerto Madryn -- the cruise port on Argentina's coast -- but well worth it. You walk among penguins and learn migration and breeding patterns from the guides. Viator has an eight-hour return tour from the Puerto Madryn to the Punta Tombo for $140.

Five things to know about cruising South America

-- The best views from an oceanview cabin are on the port side if you're departing from Valparaiso and on the starboard side from Buenos Aires.

-- Dress in layers even though it's summer because you'll be going from warm or hot to cooler weather as you sail south.

-- Most places take U.S. dollars and you will find plenty of ATMs but pay attention to the fees. Exchange leftover pesos before coming home.

-- Every port has its own artisans. In the south you will find handcrafted woollens -- scarves, sweaters, leather goods -- but major cities can fill all your needs.

-- At Santiago and Buenos Aires, there's an entry fee ranging from US$130-160. The fee in Chile has been lifted for Americans but not Canadians (yet).

Major lines such as Holland America, Princess, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and a few smaller lines all sail the north-south routes between Valparaiso and Buenos Aires.

Five South American cruises to consider

-- Golden Princess from Los Angeles on Dec. 3. It's a 14-day cruise to Valparaiso with an overnight in Lima on the way south. You can continue from Santiago, Chile, to Rio de Janeiro for a 31-day sojourn.

-- From Miami, 24 days return on Dec. 17, Oceania's Insignia cruises the Caribbean and the Amazon with an overnight in Manaus.

-- Azamara's Journey sets sails on Jan. 10, 2015 from Montevideo for Antarctica, returning to Buenos Aires with stops in the Falklands and Puerto Madryn.

-- Ruby Princess leaves Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Jan. 31, 2015 for 18 days, with Caribbean and Brazil ports, including an overnight in Rio de Janeiro. There's an option to continue to Los Angeles for a 49-day getaway.

-- On Holland America's Statendam, after an overnight in Lima, leave on Nov. 19 and cruise north to San Diego with port stops in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico. Bit.ly/1kmoxt3

Visit portsandbows.com, sponsored by Expedia CruiseShipCenters, for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2014 E2

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