Our coastal cruise along the Pacific shores of South America, from Chile to Peru is one of the world’s great expedition cruises. Few regions in the world offer the diversity and ecosystems of those found in this intriguing part of South America. From the towering snow-capped Andes to barren coastal desert, the landscapes are unparalleled.
Those who have a passion for the wilder places on our planet usually have Patagonia on their must do list. Shaped by fire and ice, this rugged, yet hauntingly beautiful land of windswept pampas, hanging glaciers and cloud piercing peaks, remains today as enticing and fascinating as it did to Magellan, Drake and more latterly Darwin. Prior to exploring the great wilderness areas of Patagonia we head for the Falkland Islands for three days of island hopping and time to observe the prolific wildlife, meet the islanders and learn more about life in this far flung outpost.
Helping us understand all the wonders we shall encounter will be our experts and expedition staff who will accompany us ashore. Our highly adaptable Zodiac craft will allow us to enter tiny inlets and explore rarely visited stretches of magnificent coastline where wildlife abounds here and the skies are filled with the cries of seabirds. Albatross and petrels wheel overhead and sea lions bark from their rocky outcrops. You may also spot black-necked swans, graceful flamingos, or a soaring Andean condor.
Highlights will include Torres del Paine, one of the most spectacular places on earth and a vast uninhabited wilderness of glacier draped mountains, windswept pampas, turquoise glacial lakes and verdant valleys. We have also included some ports of call that are excellent for wildlife; Isla Pajaros, a haven for cormorants and Magellanic Penguins, Isla Ballestas Marine Reserve, and many other remote coastal sites and islands where the use of our Zodiac craft will allow us easy access to the otherwise inaccessible.
This voyage is as equally rich in geological, archaeological and cultural interest as well. Key highlights will include an optional overland visit to the Atacama Desert, many fascinating museums, an optional flight over the famous Nazca Lines and the opportunity to add a three day visit to the colonial Peruvian city of Cuzco and the dramatically sited Inca remains of Machu Picchu.
Pacific Coastal Odyssey 2013 itinerary:
Day 1 - LONDON TO SANTIAGO.
Fly by scheduled flight.
Day 2 - SANTIAGO.
Arrive this morning and transfer to your first class hotel for a two night stay. Remainder of day at leisure.
Day 3 - SANTIAGO.
Morning free. Afternoon excursion exploring the old and new quarters and seeing something of the vibrant mix of European and Indian cultures. Welcome reception and dinner in the hotel, followed by a briefing on the cruise ahead.
Day 4 - SANTIAGO TO PUNTA ARENAS.
Morning flight to Punta Arenas in the far south of Chile on the Magellan Strait. Time permitting, explore the town and embark the MS Island Sky in the late afternoon and sail.
Days 6 - 8 - FALKLAND ISLANDS.
The Falkland Islands are isolated and windswept, a haven for wildlife. Wandering across beautiful yellow goarse covered islands we meet Gentoo, Magellanic and Rockhopper penguins. Higher up on the islands we see nesting albatrosses and in the surrounding waters we may encounter dolphins and porpoises. Places we are planning on visiting are West Point Island in the northwest and Sea Lion Island in the southeast, where we can see three penguin species and many endemic sea and land birds. Visit some of the many historic sites on the island including the famous war sites, calling at Port Stanley, the charming capital of the Falklands.
Day 10 - CAPE HORN & THE BEAGLE CHANNEL.
We will make our way around Cape Horn, one of the best known maritime landmarks in the world. Magellan was the first European visitor here in 1530 and prior to the opening of the Panama Canal it was an important staging post. Later we will enter the Beagle Channel, where in the 1820s and 30’s Robert Fitzroy piloted the HMS Beagle through this extraordinarily beautiful channel with naturalist Charles Darwin. Here the mountains, still partly unmapped, drop as sheer, densely wooded cliffs into the channel and six glaciers flow from the 8000 ft Mount Darwin into the sea. Penguins, dolphins and the South American sea lions are abound in the channel.
Day 11 - TORRES DEL PAINE NATIONAL PARK.
Navigate the Kirke Narrows, a remarkable channel leading between lush, forested shores, so narrow it can only be sailed at low tide. Dropping anchor at Puerto Natales, we will spend the day in South America’s largest national park, the Torres del Paine. This is one of the most spectacular places on earth, a vast uninhabited wilderness of glacier-draped mountains, windswept pampas, turquoise glacial lakes and verdant valleys. Look out for herds of guanacos (a smaller version of the llama), rheas, Patagonian hares, foxes and rich birdlife. See the stunning rock formations of the Horns of Paine.
Days 12 - 15 - THE CHILEAN FJORDS.
During these four days we will enjoy some of the most stunning scenery imaginable. This vast area of mountains, glaciers, islands, lakes and waterfalls is untouched by man except for a few fishing villages which perch at ‘the end of the world’. We will make good use of our time exploring the beautiful protected waters, enjoying the renowned fjords of southern Chile which rival those of South East Alaska, in their raw beauty and wildlife. Crystal clear reflections of vertical walls and hanging glaciers are broken only by the ripples of dolphins and whales, whilst overhead, a sky alive with seabirds. See how quickly you run out of suitable adjectives to describe all you are witnessing. One of our calls will be Eden Island and the remote fishing village of Puerto Eden, home to the last survivors of the Alacalufes, a nomadic seafaring tribe who lived between the Straits of Magellan and the Golfo de Penas.
Day 16 - CHILOE ISLAND & ISLOTE PINO.
Chile’s second largest island, Chiloe was visited by Darwin aboard the HMS Beagle in 1831. Our visit ashore on this mainly forested island will include Castro, one of the oldest towns in the Americas, known for its unique wooden architecture. Visit the handicraft market and the historic old quarter. Prior to landing on Chiloe we hope to visit the remote Islote Pino to see its penguin colony.
Day 17 - PUERTO MONTT.
Just when you thought you had seen the best Chile has to offer, we land at picturesque Puerto Montt, a resort town in the Lake District. Settled by German colonists in the mid-19th century, much of its early Middle- European styled architecture remains, rendering a slightly bizarre feel in such an obviously un-European setting. After a tour in the morning there will be time, in the afternoon, to explore the town independently.
Day 18 - BAHIA CORRAL FOR VALDIVIA.
Centrally located in the Lake District, Valdivia owes much of its charm to mid-19th century German immigrants. Its archaeology museum, housed in an impressive riverfront mansion, contains a large collection of Marpuche Indian artefacts.
Day 19 - ISLA MOCHA.
Today continue our scenic cruising to Isla Mocha, a large island with steep, forested hillsides. The island was declared a national reserve to protect its pristine forests and the endangered pinkfooted shearwaters that nest there. We explore the island by Zodiac, with possible landings ashore.
Day 21 - VALPARAISO.
Arrive this morning in the historic port of Valparaiso. This is Chile’s main port and a marvellously sited city. Built on 42 hills, some of which are incredibly steep, it offers great views over the city and bay. Visit Fisherman’s Wharf, the Plaza Soto Mayor and the Naval Academy. This afternoon drive to one of Chile’s fine wine growing regions located in the hills behind Valparaiso.
Day 22 - PUERTO DE COQUIMBO/ISLA PAJAROS.
We pass through the Port of Coqumbo, an important point of trade, en route to the Elqui Valley. Activities here include visits to a vineyard where pisco, the national drink of Chile (made from fermented grapes) is processed. A business that produces cochineal, a red dye derived from the bodies of scale insects, once one of the most important exports from the New World to the old during the era of Spanish imperialism; and the city of La Serena, with its attractive colonial buildings and a number of astronomical observatories. This afternoon we will board our Zodiacs for a visit to Isla Pajaros, to view the colonies of cormorants, boobies and Magellanic penguins that reside here.
Day 23 - ISLA CHANARAL.
This morning we take the Zodiacs to Isla Chanaral, the largest in a series of islands once known as an important site for guano, a valuable agricultural fertilizer. The islands are protected today as a nature reserve. We also visit the Humboldt Penguin Nature Reserve, replete with the coldwater loving birds.
Day 25 - ANTOFAGASTA.
The most dominant geographical features of Chile’s Norte Grande are the Pacific Ocean, high peaks of the Andes and the starkly desolate Atacama Desert, rich Valparaiso in minerals and ores as it is devoid of vegetation. The port of Antofagasta, largest city in Norte Grande, handles most of the minerals from the Atacama. Its Museo Regional contains exhibits dealing with minerals and fossils, immigration, cultural development and Inca presence. From this port we are offering an optional overnight overland excursion to the Atacama Desert staying in a desert lodge. Those who stay on board may join a guided walking tour of the city which today is remarkably prosperous. Visits will be made to the historical museum, the pale blue and white ‘ginger bread’ cathedral and the central market.
Day 26 - IQUIQUE.
Fishing and nitrates has been the source of the city’s wealth, there are many 19th century landmarks including the ‘neoclassical’ theatre and the Georgian style Palacio Astoreca, a 1904 mansion of great opulence, built by a nitrate tycoon. Those taking the Atacama Desert trip rejoin the vessel here this evening.
Day 27 - ARICA.
Today there will be an excursion to explore the Chilean Coast and the town of Arica where we will visit the small cathedral of San Marcos, built of iron by Eiffel. Later drive into the countryside to see the pre- Columbian petoglyphs. There will also be the opportunity for an alternative long but rewarding day in the amazing Lauca National Park which straddles the Chilean/Bolivian border. Here we go in search of flamingos, vicuna, viscachas and if we are very fortunate one of the world’s rarest birds, the diademed sandpiper-plover.
Day 29 - PUERTO SAN JUAN FOR THE NAZCA LINES, PERU.
On today’s optional tour we will board small charter flights for a bird’s eye view of the famed Nazca Lines. These enormous geoglyphs etched in the desert floor date back to 2000 BC and can only be appreciated from the air.
Day 30 - ISLA BALLESTAS, CHINCHA ISLANDS.
Influenced by the cold Humboldt Current, Isla Ballestas marine preserve area serves as breeding refuge for birds, resting areas for mammals and spawning grounds for many marine organisms. We take the Zodiacs to explore these are unparalleled. fascinating islands where we should see a variety of seabirds, such as the very localized Peruvian booby, and mammals such as Southern sea lion and Southern fur seal.
Day 31 - CALLAO TO LIMA.
Disembark the MS Island Sky this morning. Transfer from the port of Callao to the Peruvian capital of Lima for your two night stay in a first class hotel. Afternoon at leisure.
Day 32 - LIMA.
This morning join the city tour that explores colonial and modern Lima. With visits to the Government Palace, cathedral, Archaeological Museum and Plaza de Armas, followed by a drive through the residential areas of San Isidro and Miraflores, with time to shop in local stores afterwards. Farewell dinner.
Day 33 - LIMA TO LONDON.
Return to London by scheduled flight.
Day 34 - LONDON.
With a maximum passenger capacity of only 116, a vessel of her size is capable of carrying many more but instead the MS Island Sky has the benefit of unusually large suites, luxuriously appointed public areas and spacious outside decks.
On board there is a high ratio of crew to passengers. Our friendly crew of 75 are mainly Filipino and Eastern European and our Scandinavian captains are experienced mariners, having been in service aboard large 2000 plus passenger vessels and who now prefer a less frantic life aboard a small ship. If, like them and us, you prefer a more peaceful life at sea, you will find the MS Island Sky the perfect ship. When choosing the vessel for your next voyage of discovery, you can select a ship with endless entertainment and impersonal service or come with us where peace, high quality service and attention to detail are the order of the day. We promise there will be no organised entertainment, fancy dress, deck games or any of the usual big ship experiences. The atmosphere on board is more akin to a private yacht or country hotel. A little music in the lounge or bar after dinner, guest speakers, informative port briefings from our cruise director and of course good food which may be enjoyed leisurely in the attractive dining room. After a day ashore you will return to the comfort and peace of a well run and exceedingly comfortable ship.
Onboard there are 57 exceptionally spacious and well designed suites. All feature a sitting room area and some have private balconies. The feeling of luxury is enhanced by the wood panelling and brass, which predominates throughout the vessel conveying the atmosphere of a private yacht. The passenger accommodation is arranged over five decks and all suites have outside views. Each affords considerable comfort with en-suite bathroom featuring marble-topped vanity unit with sink and walk-in shower, large wardrobes, dressing table with large mirror and stool and excellent storage. There is a mini-fridge, flat screen television with inbuilt DVD player which can also play CDs and a telephone in each suite. Bottled water, towelling dressing gowns and slippers are also provided for your comfort. Other facilities include a programmable electronic safe, hairdryer, assorted toiletries and individually controlled air-conditioning and heating. The suites on each deck have their own colour theme. Soft hues and blended tones enhance the traditional maritime style making the passenger accommodation an inviting and relaxing place to be.
The spacious and finely decorated public rooms include a large lounge where daily briefings and talks will be provided throughout the voyage and an elegant bar where a pianist plays periodically throughout the day. The bar also features a 24-hour tea and coffee station. The onboard library is the perfect place to relax with a book and is stocked with reference books pertaining to the places the vessel is visiting along with a selection of games and two computers with internet access. Daily newspapers and magazines are also placed in the library depending on local availability. There is also WI-FI access throughout the vessel. Outside there is a rear sun deck where meals are served in warm weather under shade, a bar and comfortable deck furniture for sun bathing or relaxing with a book. On the top deck there is a Jacuzzi and further observation and sun deck. There is also a small hairdressers on board with appointments made on request.
Another benefit of a small ship is the quality of the cuisine. With only one sitting and a maximum of just over 100 passengers, the galley is able to provide delicious meals. Where possible and when it meets his high standards, the chef will obtain local produce in markets or buy the catch of the day from a passing fishing boat. Such purchases enhance the well stocked larders and bring a local touch to the varied menus. In the main elegant dining room, breakfast is served buffet-style, with certain items cooked to order and lunch and dinner is à la carte. When weather permits, breakfast and a buffet-style lunch are also served on deck. To enhance your dining experience even further a selection of wines are included with lunch and dinner. Afternoon tea is served in the lounge and tea and coffee are available 24 hours. With sufficient notice, most diets can be catered for on board.
Exploring Ashore & Expedition Cruising
Our inclusive pricing policy for the MS Island Sky means that the majority of shore excursions are included in the price of your cruise. Due to her size the MS Island Sky has the freedom of the seas and can come alongside in small docks or drop anchor in any suitable spot. In remote, undeveloped areas or places with restricted access, we will use the vessel’s tender to go ashore and when the vessel is operating expedition cruises in areas such as the British Isles, we will employ the vessel’s Zodiacs. These inflatable craft offer marvellous manoeuverability allowing us access to otherwise impossible landing places. There is snorkelling equipment onboard and when weather and location permits, the expedition team will set up a snorkelling platform. One of the joys of expedition cruising aboard a small vessel is the flexibility it allows. We have twenty years experience of designing trips to some of the most remote places in the world and although we set sail with a set itinerary it is the unscheduled events that often become the highlight of the journey. It is our belief that you do not go on holiday to be part of the all engulfing masses which descend on a town when a number of large ships dock at the same time. Arriving at a port for the first time should be an invigorating experience and can certainly be so when the right place is chosen and your arrival is on a small ship. With only 116 passengers, there is no queuing to disembark or embark the MS Island Sky for an excursion and when required there will only be three coaches waiting on the quayside to transport you to the day’s attraction as opposed to a whole fleet waiting for the passengers travelling on the big ships.
For Your Comfort & Security & Safety
Our vessel is equipped with the latest safety, navigation and communications equipment along with roll stabilizers to minimize the ship’s motion. The captain and officers operate an open-bridge policy that allows passengers onto the bridge at most times with the exception of arrival and departure from port and during times of complicated navigation. Here you can check the ship’s progress by charts and learn more from the officers about your journey. There is also a dedicated channel on your television in your suite showing the routing of the vessel along with technical information and estimated times of arrival and departure from port. On board you will also find a clinic and doctor and a lift that serves all decks. Smoking on board is restricted to outside decks only.