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About South American Cruises

View South American Cruise Itineraries

South America offers travellers a range of cruise destinations. From the glitter of Rio and Buenos Aires to the penguins and whales of the Straits of Magellan, to the Amazon, to the intriguing colonial history and South America is a destination of opposites, and one of the most exciting destinations in the world.  With Air New Zealand’s direct flights from Auckland to Buenos Aires, a South American Cruise is more appealing than ever.

Cruises from Buenos Aires

Cruises from Rio de Janeiro

Cruises from Santiago


Cruise Types

There are three main types of South America Cruises. (Note that while most Antarctic cruise depart from South America ports – particularly from Ushuaia – information on Antarctica cruises is listed separately).

1. Amazon River Cruises

Many of the major cruise lines have itineraries which visit Manaus. These are either shorter cruises (15 nights) from Caribbean ports or longer cruises such as World Cruises and South American exploration cruises. Manaus is situated at the head of the Amazon over 900miles (1500kms) from Belem at the mouth of the river. The river is deep enough to accommodate even the large cruise ships. Smaller ships can get as far as Iquitos.

View Amazon River Cruise Itineraries

2. Specialty Cruises

There are a number of operators who provide Galapagos cruises. These cruises depart from Baltra or San Cristobal in the Galapagos, but most of these cruises are a part of a cruise tour package which include pre or post land tours from Quito. Prices for these cruises normally include the air transfer from Quito to the Islands.

Navimag offer a series of cruises through the Chilean Fjords from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales. There vessels are ferries that provide a lifeline to the remote communities in this area but include cabins, a restaurant and common areas so that tourists can enjoy this marvellous area and see places that the cruise ships cannot go.

3. South America Explorer Cruises

These are all the other South America Cruises including routes around Cape Horn and the Strait of Magellan or east coast itineraries between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. These cruises are often 12 nights or longer sailing between December and March and often include visits to the Antarctic where passengers enjoy the scenery from on board. Smaller ships can also land passengers on some islands and even onto the Antarctic continent.

Cruise Seasons

Major cruise lines visit this continent between September and March. For cruises that sail round Cape Horn this is the southern summer and in general cruise ships that do South American itineraries return to Europe or Alaska for the northern summer cruise season. Specialty cruises operate year round.

Main Ports

Cruises to the Amazon and the north of the continent depart from Ft Lauderdale, San Juan, Bridgetown, Rio or Buenos Aires. Additionally the longer cruises can start from as far away as Southampton or Los Angeles. Cruises around Cape Horn and on the east coast start from Valparaiso, Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro.


The Equator runs through Ecuador and northern Brazil so much of the continent is tropical. The dry season is fro October to June which is when cruises to the Amazon operate. Cruises from Rio on the east coast also run in this period.

Cruises that go round Cape Horn experience a much larger change in weather and temperature. Santiago and Buenos Aires are Mediterranean in climate and enjoy warm summers with mild winters. However cruises that go round the Horn can experience much colder temperatures even in the height of summer. Passengers on these cruises should have some winter clothing just for the days when the ship rounds the horn.