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S. Hayes

Age: 60

Occupation:tour guide

Number of Cruises: 14

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Royal Princess

Sailing Date: April 5th, 2003

Itinerary: So. America - Andes to Ft. Lauderdale

Royal Princess - Continuation of J Caballero's South America cruise...
April 5 - 22.

We originated in Buenos Aires and went all the way to Ft. Lauderdale. We met J Caballero and were on several excursions with them and agree with everything written in that review. This is the continuation of the cruise rather than repeat the first half.

Valaparaiso. We plus 248 other passengers will stay on board. The only excursion offered to continuing passengers was 8 hours to Santiago, sightseeing and return. Too long. We arranged with PortCompass to do a 4 hour Valaparaiso/Vina del Mar tour returning to the ship for a late lunch. It was a beautiful day and the area reminded us of Monterey, CA. with the surf breaking on large rocks, seals, birds, and huge sand dunes. Valaparaiso port is a very busy one and the largest in Chile.

We had decided to splurge on this second part of the cruise by booking a mini-suite with balcony -it was fabulous to have so much room and this great balcony. This is our 4th cruise on the RP - needless to say, she is one of our favorites. While we were touring, our former steward (actually we were almost directly below the mini-suite for the first half) and our new steward took care of moving our belongings - what great service.

We were seated at dinner with 2 other couples for the entire cruise which worked well for us and we enjoyed each others company. We requested a window table on this portion of the cruise, if possible, and were moved accordingly and we all enjoyed the view each evening.

We had quite a few sea days mixed in with the ports. Princess has many activities going on so that you can be as busy or relaxed as you choose to be on sea days. We enjoyed our balcony as the days were warm and the chaise lounge was great for reading.

We had sailed from the beautiful, lush green hills, and snow-covered mountains of southern Chile to the northern part which is a huge desert - the Atacama Desert. Amazing difference.

Coquimbo, Chile. Arid desert, small city. We elected to take a walk around the dock area and relax on this hot day. Excursions didn't look that interesting and the cost ranged from $51-$199. I believe we made a good choice.

Arica, Chile. We really enjoyed this stop. It was hot and cloudy in the morning, but afternoon cleared. I doubt they get an inch of rain a year! A market was set up a short walk from the ship with some interesting items. We took an excursion by train (it came right down to the ship) to the Lluta Valley and the small village of Poconchile. The church at Poconchile, we were told, is the oldest in So. America. It was hit by an earthquake a number of years ago and all that remains is the front and left side walls. However, services are still held there every Sunday. It seldom, if ever, rains so no roof doesn't present much of a problem. A group of young folk dancers provided some entertainment and pisco sours (the favored drink of this part of So. Am)served. We enjoyed the afternoon. The scenery reminded us of Jordan and Egypt. 2 of our tablemates took the trip to Lake Chungara and enjoyed that day even though it was a long one and the altitude bothered them a bit.

San Martin, Peru. Such excitement for me as I am going off the ship for 2 nights to see Machu Picchu!

My husband stayed on ship and he took a boat trip out to the Islas Ballestras (sort of a mini-Galapagos)today and enjoyed it even though the boat was a bit rustic.

About 200 passengers were going to Machu Picchu. Princess chartered 2 727s for the 1hr flight to Cuzco and we were divided into groups. We were offered a choice of the Monasterio or Liberatador Hotels when booking. I chose the Monasterio and believe it was the best choice - lovely hotel with many nice amenities and good food.
We were bused to the airport at Pisco - small terminal that looked like a bus station and dirt all around - the runway was tarmac. We decended thru the clouds to our first view of the mountains around Cuzco - very lush green. Cuzco is at about 11,500 ft - altitude sickness is a good possibility (the reason my husband chose not to come)and lunch, afternoon sightseeing, dinner were all paced to limit that possibility as much as possible. Coca tea is always available and said to help avoid it. I drank lots of water and took it slow. The only effect I had was a headache until late morning the next day. We toured Cuzco that afternoon, traveling another 2,000 ft up to overlook the city - I would enjoy spending more time there. 2nd day, early morning wake up and off to the train station after breakfast for our Machu Picchu day. Train ride is 3 1/2hrs - scenery too lovely to nap. A 10min walk off the train down to a bus, 5 min ride, to the bridge, walk across the bridge (roaring river below you), another bus switchbacks up 1500 ft to IT. Machu Picchu was everything I ever hoped and just like every photo you have ever seen but better. The mist and low clouds emphasized the green mountains. The ruins are not for the timid or anyone unable to walk well. No handrails, slippery uneven stone steps, steep climbs - fabulous! Lunch is cafeteria style - I had some roasted alpaca, very good. Eventually back to the bus, bus, train and Cuzco by 7PM.
Excellent dinner, bed, up early next morning for the flight to meet the ship in Lima, Peru. The return was on scheduled flights (about 4 or 5 of them to accommodate everyone)on modern jet aircraft.

Before returning to the RP, we took a short tour of Lima. It is not a beautiful city and is dangerous but interesting. Husband was happy to se me. We sailed about 1PM.
This excursion was booked with Princess and worth every penny.

Our last So. American port was Manta, Ecuador. Upon waking and walking out on the balcony to check things out, I was a bit surprised to find us looking at a US Navy destroyer with the American flag proudly flying. A few of our passengers were former military and got a tour, the rest of us just looked. Lots of security patrols around. We took a bus to the Artisan's Market and had a small one on the pier as well. I found the best buys at this port (I have to tell you that I am not terribly fond of shopping so I don't do a lot of it). Some of the passengers made an overnight flight trip to see Quito,so we were there 2days. I was interested to learn that the US dollar is their currency as well. Not much to see otherwise, but I did enjoy it.

2 days later we woke to a nice sunrise and the islands on the west side of the Panama Canal. Soon Panama City andthe Bridge of the Americas came into view. We had breakfast on the balcony as we sailed into the first of the locks. It is very hot as the day progresses. We cruised the Canal until about 3PM when we exited the final lock.

At one time we were scheduled to stop at Cartagena, Colombia, but that stop was cancelled and our time in Aruba extended. It also made possible a 4-5hr stop at the east end of the Canal in Cristobal. Panamanian dancers danced, many stalls set up to sell all kinds of goods at the pier. About 9PM we sailed on into the Caribbean.
Aruba was our last port of call. Having been there before, we took a cab to the Marriott Hotel and spent a few hours on the beach. Many people seemed to enjoy the shopping there.

Ft. Lauderdale lurked ahead and the end of 31 wonderful days of cruising. Princess does a great job of getting everyone off and on their way with efficiency. I have to say that this was the best trip we have taken and it will be difficult to beat it - but we will give it a try.

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