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Traveling Fools

Part 1 Installment, Infinity 2/29/04 South America

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I have broken my trip journal into 3 installments. Installment 1 is pre-cruise (Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls), Installment 2 covers the 14-day cruise around the Horn, and Installment 3 focuses on the 2 weeks we spent in Peru.

 

For those who have no interest in reading the journal, my summarized review of the is the forward to Installment-2 The Cruise.

 

Installment 1: Pre-Cruise…Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls

 

FEB 22nd –23rd: DAY 1and DAY 2---JAX—Buenos Aires

 

We got to BA without any problems. Did have to buy an IGO power supply for the laptop at the airport in Charlotte. Cost a few bucks, but it provides me with the means to charge the battery in air, vehicle, or on land.

 

Duty Free at Dulles had some good prices on booze. 2 for 1 type of sale.

 

Getting through Immigration in BA was time consuming, only from the point of waiting in line. Must have taken at least 30 minutes. When you clear Immigration and move to collect your bags you can rent the same type of trolleys found in the USA. If you don’t have local currency the cart employee will take dollars. It is about .65 per cart.

 

The ride into town from EZE is about 45 minutes. We called the hotel the day before leaving the USA and were told cab fare runs about $25.00. They offered to have a car and driver waiting for us for $30. DUH!! The driver was there with our name on a board. With tip the cost was $33.

 

BA is great! Compared to Panama City this is New York. If you are expecting to find a sleazy Mexican type border town you are in for a pleasant surprise! BA is very European. The streets are clean and people well dressed and groomed. We have only seen a couple of dirty street urchins and on one occasion they were being chewed out by a local elderly woman who was telling them they should be home with their mother.

 

All the drivers have told us to avoid wearing flashy jewelry. We have noted the locals doing the same. Everyone seems to be taking the same care with his or her purses and satchels as you would in any large metropolitan city. We have not observed anything that would come close to freaking us out.

 

Levis are popular daytime garb. Business casual/resort casual the dress for the evening.

 

Had dinner with a great bottle of wine. With tip it was less than $30 for the 2 of us. We had steak…..big portions, so beware. Lots of restaurants in the Puerto Madero district. That’s where we went. Cost us $4.00 cab fare round trip. Used Radio Cabs and had great, friendly drivers.

 

Earthlink has a local number in BA for those of you who use them. Inexpensive Internet Cafes are abundant.

 

Wine shops and small groceries were available and near our hotel.

 

FEB 24th: DAY 3---Iguazu:

 

Departed the hotel at 1030 for the falls. The departure airport is BA’s domestic airport, which is much closer to downtown BA. Given the flight schedules from BA to Iguazu, it would be difficult to impossible to arrive in BA from the states and make it to the domestic airport the same day. This necessitates a layover in BA.

 

We arrived in Iguazu at about 2:00 PM and were at the hotel at about 3. My intent was to enjoy as much of the park as possible while here and I had wanted to stay at 1 of the 2 hotels in the park, but they were booked making that plan unworkable. It was disappointing as we dropped another couple off at the Sheraton and I could see the falls through the lobby windows as we drove by. We stayed at the Hotel Cataratas (close to town). It is very clean and the staff super friendly and helpful.

 

We elected to take in a dinner show in Brazil. What fun! Doris was in 7th heaven. The show was quit good. Had a great bottle of Brazilian wine…cost $15.00.

 

Had a nightcap in the hotel bar. Doris had wine (a small 350 ml bottle really sucked) and I had JW Black…tab $2.00 for the wine and $3.30 for the scotch.

 

Tomorrow we have a full day at the falls (Argentina side). We are scheduled to raft the river, get up close to the falls, take a nature drive, and tour the park. Total cost for 2 for all the excursions including tonight’s dinner show 290 pesos (less than $100.00)

 

FEB 25th: DAY 4---Iguazu:

 

The falls are truly spectacular! The park is clean, well laid out, and very well organized. The first stop involved about a 1 kilometer walk to a small gage train station. From there we boarded the train for about a 5-minute ride. Next a 1-kilometer walk over a galvanized walkway over the river to where the river falls (the Devils Throat). Impressive as this sight was, I was expecting much more and began to wonder if it was going to be a costly ho-hum excursion.

 

We walked back to shore and with one other couple boarded an inflatable boat for a trip down river. It was peaceful and interesting. We saw some wildlife, the most interesting being a tribe of monkeys using the canopy of trees to cross the part of the river we were on. One baby monkey didn’t feel comfortable jumping from to the limbs of the tree across the creek, waited, and piggybacked across with an adult.

 

From this “adventure†it was on to another walkway. All of sudden it was there! The first of many views of these spectacular falls that so many people had raved about and the reason it has been designated a World Heritage Site. Each step and turn it got better. We ended up going through 2 memory cards of pictures.

 

Our day included a boat ride on a hard ribbed, motorized inflatable into the throat of the Devil. If you can handle stairs (lots of them) and aren’t afraid of getting soaking wet, this adventure is not to be missed. You are taken up and into the mist of the falling water. The skipper ensures everyone gets soaked by a waterfall and then heads down river through the rapids. Truly awesome!

 

I can’t say enough about how well laid out and clean the park is. It is amazing when you consider they don’t have an army of people walking around cleaning up after the visitors. The visitors themselves take responsibility for cleaning up after themselves, including smokers. I saw very few cigarette butts lying on the ground. Another favorable feature, unlike the theme parks in the U.S. and other countries, they don’t gouge you for food and drink. A bottle of water cost less than a buck. A sit down lunch for with 4 bottles of mineral water and 2 espressos cost $14.00. Hurt me again!

 

Dinner was at the hotel, a buffet that was so-so. Just for those counting pennies, a bottle of wine and slug of scotch cost $10.00 with tip.

 

FEB 26th: DAY 5---Iguazu and Buenos Aires:

 

Today we saw the falls from the Brazilian side. Americans must have a visa or they will not let you enter the country. At the border Doris and I were photographed and finger printed. It got the tongues of the Spanish couple traveling with us wagging. The plain clothed Brazilian Federal Policeman was very profession and even wished Doris a happy birthday.

 

If you intend on going to Iguazu, budget another day into your trip to visit the Brazilian side. You are truly missing a significant part of the experience by not viewing them from Brazil. The panoramic view from Brazil really helps put the magnificence of this jewel into perspective.

 

For those planning a trip/cruise next year and are pinched for time if, 1) depart BA on the earliest flight out or something that will get you into Iguazu before noon, 2) you stay in the park, you use a private guide, AND 3) you take the last flight out on day 3, I think you can see and do both sides. By staying in the park, after checking into the hotel you will have time to take at least one excursion; i.e. the boat ride into the throat of the Devil, and walk a lot of the park on your own. Day 2 arrange to be picked up at your hotel early enough to be at the Brazilian park when it opens. Remember if you are American you may have to be photographed and finger printed at the Brazilian Port of Entry. This will eat up time. You can do the Brazilian side in appx 2 hours. After returning to the Argentina side and your hotel, if time permits you can see some of what your missed the day before. Being on your own, you will be able to move at your own pace, avoid delays in waiting for others, and skip the hour-long lunches the guides build into each day. You might not have time to participate in every excursion, but should have time to see most of everything.

 

We got back to our hotel in BA at about 6:45. It was Doris’ birthday and we had tickets for the opera (Carmen). It was a rush, but we got cleaned up, dressed, and made it to the opera house with about 15 minutes to spare. The opera and opera house were grand! We wore business attire, and were stunned to find people showing up in Levis. Bottom line, unless it is a special performance resort casual dress is acceptable.

 

We did become crime victims today. Once in our BA hotel room, I discovered that at either the hotel in Iguazu or at the airport in Iguazu someone had stolen a key chain from my pull along “carry-on†that you have to check when flying. It was an insignificant key chain, one that been a presento to me (one of a dozen or so) while working in either Japan or Kuwait. I used it only to carry the keys that unlocked the paddle locks on our suitcases. Get this, the thief only took the key chain and left the keys!?!

 

FEB 27th: DAY 6---Buenos Aires:

 

We took the Gaucho tour organized through Port Compass. Our guide was about 45 minutes late showing up, which had us worried that there had been a disconnect and we had been left behind. I had read that many people had considered the gaucho excursion to be a highlight and had structured our itinerary around attending it. The tour operator finally showed and we got underway.

 

This was a SIB (Seat-in-Bus) excursion so we had a partially full bus of traveling companions. A mixed crowd from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Germany, Canada, Australia, and the USA. Everyone kept to themselves until the requisite pit stop at a gas station/gift shop. The stop served as an icebreaker and most of us started to mingle with other passengers. By time we got to the ranch we found that most of us aboard the bus were also taking the cruise. At the ranch there were at least 10 other busloads of people.

 

It was very interesting; you can walk around the ground and through the old ranch house that has been converted into a museum. We were met with pitchers of wine and baskets of meat pies. You could go horseback riding or ride a horse drawn carriage. Lunch was included and what a lunch it was! There was a never ending flow of food and drink consisting of decent red or white wine, beer, sodas, water (with or without gas), coffee, matte, salads, a variety of meat (beef and pork), chicken (I liked the chicken best), and desert. While we were eating there was a floorshow that incorporated audience participation and lots of singing a dancing. We learned that many of the other groups would also be on the cruise. After lunch, we adjourned outside for a show of Argentine horsemanship.

 

The whole excursion was simply lots of fun! Casual dress (shorts, etc.) is OK. The gauchos did tell one guy to put his shirt back on.

 

After being dropped at the hotel, we did some wine shopping. Settled on 5 bottles of red and 2 local champagnes recommended by the shop owner. Cost $55. Bumped into one other future cruise mate also stocking up for the cruise.

 

Had a light pasta dinner and a couple of beers in a small café on Florida Street and called it an early night.

 

Just a note for you smokers. Cigarettes are cheap in Argentina, less than a $1.00 a pack.

 

FEB 28th: DAY 7---Buenos Aires:

 

Took a private city tour today arranged through Port Compass. Buenos Aires is such a special city, clean, inexpensive, and very European. Visit Evita’s tomb. Doris and I have never been in a cemetery like the one in Buenos Aires. Wall to wall crypts. It is like being in a miniature city. Very impressive. Visited all the sections of the city. The only really touristy place is La Boca. This was a Saturday and the place was packed with busloads of people. La Boca is more run down than other sections of the city, yet the restrooms, including the lady’s room, were super clean and odor free. Had a terrific lunch at a very swank restaurant on the riverfront (came with the excursion). Wasn’t especially pleased with our guide’s command of English.

 

Got back to the hotel and chilled for an hour or so and then headed off to the Gran Café Tortoni. We met up with a dozen or so cruise mates that I had been communicating with on Cruise Critic’s Roll Call Bulletin Board. I was surprised at the number of people who showed up and how well most gelled. The Café was the first of its kind in Buenos Aires and is quite popular with the locals.

 

From there it was back to the hotel and on to a tango dinner show. The food and wine was mediocre, but the show was very good. We went to the La Ventana, but based upon other passenger’s reviews, would recommend Mr. Tango over the show we attended.

 

End of Installment 1

 

Infinity--South America--Feb 29,2004

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Wow. Sounds wonderful. Thank you so much. It sounds like you arranged all your pre-stay touring on your own? Can you provide any links? Thanks again.

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Thank you for your wonderful review. It brings back many fond memories of our trip last year on the Zenith and our stays in Buenos Aires and Santiago. We were unable to get to the Falls but I hope to see them sometime in the future. I look forward to reading your other installments. That trip was certainly once in a lifetime!

 

Terri

 

Summit Christmas Cruise 12/17/04 countdown.cgi?trgb=000000&srgb=00ff00&prgb=800080&cdt=2004;12;17;16;30;00&timezone=GMT-0500

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Warmwinds,

 

We used Port Compass for all the pre-cruise excursions in BA, except the tango show. If you are going to the falls, you have to organize that in advance. For the local stuff around BA use your hotel concierge.

 

It was a great trip!

 

Infinity--South America--Feb 29,2004

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First, great name "Traveling Fools" which is what we are slowly becoming. Thanks for a great post - look forward to the rest. Sounds like you made a great decision on the pre-cruise package.

 

Yanceycruiser

 

Dreamward 1/95

Norway 1/97

Grandeur of the Seas 1/99

Grand Princess 2/01

Carnival Pride 2/03

 

countdown.cgi?trgb=000000&srgb=00ff00&prgb=000080&cdt=2004;08;22;17;0;00&timezone=GMT-0800

 

Until the Infinity on

August 22, 2004

 

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This is a wonderful post! Thank you so much for all the details and helpful information.

We are planning a January SA Cruise in 2005 and this answered and spoke to so many of the things I was wondering about.

 

I do have a couple of questions. If you prefer to answer me through email - send it to brahmama@yahoo.com.

 

I was wondering what your experience was with the weather. I have looked up the temps for Jan and it gave 85 - 64 for BA with a humidity of 86%! Was this your experience? Did the heat/humidity interfere with your enjoyment of the Gaucho day? Was the AC sufficient in your hotel room? What hotel did you use? And did yu have a TA in BA to arrange your hotel and your flight to the falls?

 

Oops, I got carried away with questions! But even if you don't get a chance to answer them, you have already enriched our trip!

 

Carol

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Hi Carol,

 

Thanks for the complements.

 

As others may have similar questions let me answer them here:

 

1) Weather: It will be summer in South America when you cruise. Temperatures in BA will be warm, even hot. The falls are in a rain forest/jungle so you will experience heat and humidity. All you need are shorts and a T-shirt. I knew we were going to get wet on the river and wore a Hawaiian print swimsuit and T-shirt and was not under dressed. We probably over packed for the cold weather and in retrospect think that if you layer with a T-shirt, shirt, fleece pullover and windproof windbreaker that you will be warm enough. Take some gloves and something to keep your ears warm. A lot of passengers watched from the comfort of the Constellation Night Club on Deck 10. The heat and humidity (or cold) did not interfere with any part of the trip or cruise.

2) In BA we stayed at the Marriott. It was a very good hotel and the A/C worked just fine…in fact it got too cold for us one night. Our daughter works for the Ritz Carlton and we made our own hotel arrangements. Others in our roll call group made on line reservations and stayed at the Kempenski. As far as I know they were pleased with the place.

3) I used Port Compass to arrange the excursion to the Falls. I did not feel comfortable with payment requirements some of the local BA TA’s had. Included in our excursion: 1) transfers between hotel and domestic airport in BA, 2) R/T air, 3) transfers between airport in Iguazu and hotel, 4) transfers from hotel to the parks in both Argentina and Brazil, and 5) Hotel in Iguazu. I am reviewing my agreement with Port Compass because I thought admission to the parks and guide service at both parks were suppose to have been included. If you stay at Sheraton in the park, you can arrange you won’t require a tour operator to transport you to the park and can arrange for your own guide at either the hotel or park entrance.

 

Joe

 

Infinity--South America--Feb 29,2004

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