Despite its large land mass and various destinations of note, South America is generally not regarded as much of a cruise destination, at least not by the enormous segment of the cruise market constituted by American vacationers. Obviously, the Caribbean is popular, and a good deal of cruises go as far south as the Panama Canal, but few break into the Southern Hemisphere. There are, however, several Costco cruises to South America throughout the year, and there are a few important things you need to know about these particular offerings from Costco Travel. Below we have enumerated these few important things about Costco cruises to the South America, which involve not only the cruises themselves, but also how to book them.
Even though it is an American operation, surprisingly few of the South American cruises offered by Costco Travel start in the U.S. Rather, they tend to start and end in some South American port. (Santos, Brazil and and Valparaiso, Chile seem to be particularly popular port cities.) Moreover, of the cruises that leave from the U.S., the vast majority are one-way cruises. So, if you want to book a Costco cruise to South America, it will likely have to be a trip within a trip – i.e., a sailing you take as part of a larger vacation to South America – or it will have to be your method of getting to South America, meaning you’d have to find another way home. This might seem like a problem, but it actually opens the door to some cool travel opportunities. You could start a long trip to South America in comfort and style on a cruise to, say, Valparaiso, and then rough it a bit more as you work your way up the South American continent. Valparaiso is about an hour bus ride from Santiago, and this region of Chile is about as far south as you’ll likely want to go unless you are planning to go to Patagonia or some similarly distant part of the continent. (Technically, Buenos Aires is slightly further south than Valparaiso and Santiago, and obviously you might want to go there, but the point is that there isn’t much beyond Puerto Valparaíso to the south.)
If either a trip within a trip or a one-way journey to South America sounds like your kind of vacation, a good place to start looking for options is on the Costco Travel page dedicated to South America. On this page you’ll find the “Featured Deals,” which are worth checking before you do any further research in case one of these (generally discounted) offerings catches your eye, and you’ll also find the website’s search tool. In general, this is a helpful function of the site – it kind of has to be, or else there is no way to find cruise listings – but it has at least one serious bug when it comes to South American cruises, namely, tons of non-South American cruises come up when you list “South America” as your destination. (The same problem plagues other destinations, including North America.) The problem is least noticeable when you search during the South America cruise season, which is essentially from November through March. (Seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, so this is actually the summer season.) Although there is the occasionally out-of-place listing, the majority are cruises that in one way or another involve South America. When you search for cruises outside of this period, the results appear to be more or less random. If you choose July 2015 as your departure month, for instance, not a single South American cruise comes up in the results. Instead, a number of European cruises come up (like those to the Mediterranean) and nothing else. So, Costco does list South American cruises on their site, but you might struggle to find them a bit, even when you choose “South America” as your cruise destination.
Costco cruises to South America have many limitations, not least the fact that they appear not to exist during several months (despite Costco implying otherwise), but they are worth considering for a person looking for a certain type of vacation. The South American cruises offered by Costco would likely have to be a part of a larger journey and thus would not be a self-contained vacation, but if you have time and are willing to do some planning, they might fit in well to a long South American journey.