Gael Garcia Bernal’s character in Motorcycle Diaries may have gotten around the lower half of South America on a motorbike, but there’s no better way to explore the southern tip than on a cruise ship. South America cruises generally navigate the lower countries on the continent, including Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile, and the best place to start your journey is in Valparaíso, Chile.
Just an hour drive from Santiago, Valparaíso is a port town that’s raw, edgy, beautiful, and commanding. It’s easy to get inspired by the 42 hills that roll down to the mouth of an active, industrial port. Wooden homes of various colors nestle in their nooks on cliffs; cobblestone streets form a dizzying labyrinth; and views are breathtaking from any point you stand. Valparaíso, is so unique and historic, the entire colonial city is appointed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearby Vina del Mar, unarguably the best beach town in the country, is the perfect setting for a cruise port.
While architecturally engaging, the entire city is washed over with street art, one of the few cities in the world where it is legal and often commissioned by the government. From concrete walls, wooden doors, and coffee shops to hinged gates, almost every structure has been dipped in vibrant colors with moving, statement-making images and portraits that flood the city with optimism. It’s a visually engaging show for cruise passengers; the entire city is an open-air museum. While Valparaíso, isn’t as big as Santiago, it makes up for it with tons of soul.
Valparaíso, is also smack-dab in wine valley, and visitors can have tastings at a number of top Chilean vineyards like Emiliana, a “green” winery that not only produces biodynamic, organic wines, but also makes their own olive oil and honey.
Valparaíso is so inspiring that famous artist Pablo Neruda built a home at the top of a hill, which is now converted into La Sebastiana Museum. Neruda’s former house-cum-museum is chock-full of memorabilia, and it’s a must when in “Valpo.”
Stay at Casa Higueras, a stunning, 20-room boutique property, formerly a 1920’s mansion. Perched on a hill, the hotel has breathtaking views of the port, comfortably chic and modern rooms, and an excellent restaurant. Upscape, a premiere luxury operator for Valparaíso, specializes in the American market with many gay guides that make exploring the city unforgettable.
For decades, Celebrity Cruises has taken guests from Valparaíso to Buenos Aires, Argentina on a 15-night “Chile and Argentina” journey, with stops in the Chilean Fjords, Straights of Magellan, Ushuaia, and Punta Del Este. Guests can enjoy the Canyon Ranch Spa, several restaurants, and a modern rooftop terrace aboard ship.
This bite-site city made up of tiny islands is one of the most picturesque, tantalizing, romantic destinations in Italy, and it sure blows Naples (another major embarkation point) out of the water. Venice is already a natural place for cruises considering its canal system, and the cruise tourism infrastructure is solid. While big vessels are forbidden, smaller ships have the privilege of docking at Terminal Venezia Passenger in the Venetian Lagoon for pre- and post-cruise itineraries (approximately 500 ship departures a year), where visitors can spend days exploring the city by foot or gondola.
To truly immerse in Venetian culture, book a room at The Gritti Palace. British Writer Somerset Maugham once wrote: “There are few things in life more pleasant than to sit on the terrace of the Gritti.” This Luxury Collections hotel in a historic, 15th-century building is filled with priceless antiques and paintings and is considered the grand dame of the canals, occupying a prime waterfront location across from the basilica Santa Maria Della Salute. While one can hop on a traditional gondola to cruise the labyrinth of waterways, splurge on the hotel’s new, half-a-million Riva Super yacht that takes guests out privately for an upscale experience.
One of the city’s oldest trattorias, the family-run Antiche Carampane is tucked away on a quiet street in San Polo, removed from crowds of tourists, which makes it a must. Diners can expect an authentic Venetian menu with traditional Italian preparation and cooking, including freshcaught wild fish and market-fresh produce bought early mornings at nearby Rialto market.
Opened in 1931, Harry’s Bar at Cipriani is a legendary watering hole that attracted the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, and Charlie Chaplin. Famous for creating the Bellini, and perfecting the dry martini, Harry’s Bar is as storied as it is classy.
Among popular museums like Doge’s Palace and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Museo Fortuny is a lesser-known gem in San Marco that Art Nouveau designer Mariano Fortuny restored in the early 20th century. Known for its collection of paintings, textiles, and tapestries that mirrors Fortuny’s lavish taste, the museum is inside a beautiful 15th-century palazzo.
After you’ve properly experienced Venice, board your Viking Cruise on the Mediterranean Odyssey voyage. The 13-day cruise visits six countries and ten ports (including Corfu, Greece, and Dubrovnik, Croatia). Viking Cruises has become highly regarded as one of the most exceptional small and medium vessels at sea, complete with a stunning atrium, fine-dining restaurants, one of the most sumptuous spas on a ship, and unforgettable excursions.
Conservatorium Hotel, Van Baerlestraat 27, Tel: 31-20570-0000. Five-star hotel inside a former music school and bank from 1897. www.conservatoriumhotel.com
I Amsterdam. The official tourism website for Amsterdam. www.iamsterdam.com
Rijksmuseum, Museumstraat 1, Tel: 31-20-6747000. The most famous museum in Amsterdam with major artwork. www.rijksmuseum.nl
Jansz, Reestraat 8, Tel: 31-20-5235-282. Excellent elevated dining restaurant in trendy Nine Streets district. www.janszamsterdam.com
Uniworld. Boutique, luxury cruise line that’s a magnet to highbrow, posh travelers. www.uniworld.com
Pikaia Lodge. The islands first, and only ecofriendly, luxury resort. Enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience at this all-inclusive getaway surrounded by incredible natural beauty. Galapagos. Tel: 5934-371-1670. Prices start at $8,745 for three-night stay (for double occupancy). www.pikaialodge.com
Azamara Club Cruises. Boutique cruise line focusing on destination immersions. www.azamaraclubcruises.com
Blindspot Gallery, 28 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Tel: 852-2517-6238. Progressive contemporary gallery. www.blindspotgallery.com
Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, 1 Austin Road, Tel: 8522263-2263. The highest hotel in Asia with breathtaking views. www.ritzcarlton.com
Wing Lai Yuen, 7 Tak On St, no phone. The best noodles in Hong Kong. No website.
Miami and The Beaches. The official tourism website for Miami. www.miamiandbeaches.com
Faena Hotel, 3201 Collins Ave, Tel: 305-534-8800. Elegant Miami Beach hotel with large rooms and fancy restaurant. www.faena.com
The National, 1677 Collins Ave, Tel: 305-532-2311. Popular South Beach Hotel with fun, live cabaret dinner hosted by local guru Edison Farrow. www.thecabaretsouthbeach.com
PortMiami. Miami’s cruise terminal’s website that helps you plan your cruise. www.portmiami.com
Royal Caribbean, Cruise line known for unique activities and attractions aboard the ships. www.royalcaribbean.com
Casa Higueras, Higuera 133, Cerro Alegre de, Tel: 5632-249-7900. 20-room boutique with sublime views and excellent restaurant. www.casahigueras.cl
Celebrity Cruises. Family-friendly and couplesfriendly cruise line that focuses on service. www.celebritycruises.com
Emiliana Organic Vineyards, Casablanca Region, Tel: 56-22-353-9130. Breathtaking vineyard that focuses on organic wines. www.emiliana.cl
La Sebastiana, Hector Calvo 692, Tel: 56-32222-0092. Pablo Neruda’s former house and museum. www.fundacionneruda.org
Upscape, Tegualda 1352, Tel: 802-904-6798. Premiere tour operator in Valparaíso with gay guides. www.upscaletravel.com
Antiche Carampane, Rio Tera de la Carampane, 1911, Tel: 39-041-524-0165. Popular restaurant known for seafood and celebrity sightings. www.antichecarampane.com
The Gritti Palace, Campo Santa Maria del Giglio, Tel: 39-041-794611. Five-star hotel in a 15th-century palazzo. www.thegrittipalace.com
Harry’s Bar, Calle Vallaresso, Tel: 39-041-5285777. Legendary bar that invented the Bellini. www.harrysbarvenezia.com
Museo Fortuny, Campo S. Beneto, 3780, Tel: 39-041-520-0995. Unassuming, off-theradar museum inside a 15th-century palazzo. www.fortuny.visitmuve.it
Viking Cruises. Upscale cruise line with intimate ships. www.vikingcruises.com