Choosing the best time for South America cruises depends on what you are hoping to find. For example, in June, the Galapagos Islands offer cool, dry weather, but at that same time, the Amazon basin is around 90ºF, while snow and ice makes southern Patagonia impassable. This drastic variation in climate means that there is no offseason in South America as a whole, though as a general rule, the summer season is when you will find the continent most hospitable.
The most popular months to visit South America are during the height of summer, which is roughly from December to March, and many tourist destinations will be packed. Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil are particularly busy, and the world famous Rio de Janeiro carnival in February sees millions of visitors arriving in the city from across the globe.
In the southern part of the continent, the least expensive months to visit are between September to December and between March and June, when the weather is generally colder and there are fewer tourists. You should be prepared to pay higher prices if you want to visit during the peak season months, particularly in major cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.
There are a number of major international ports in South America, including Buenos Aires in Argentina, Montevideo in Uruguay and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. On the west coast, Lima in Peru is also a major port, along with Punta Arenas, the gateway to Chilean Patagonia.
South America cruises offer plentiful opportunity for shore excursions. In Argentina, visitors can enjoy a tour of Buenos Aires - the Paris of South America - visit an authentic horse ranch or go kayaking with sea lions. In Brazil, cruise passengers can take in the nightlife of Rio de Janeiro or the grandeur of Sugar Loaf mountain, and on the west coast, visitors can explore the stunning Machalilla National Park in Ecuador or stop to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of Machu Picchu or the Sacred Valley.
There are plenty of options for travelers who want to enjoy the cruises to South American. Avalon Waterways offer a fascinating Treasure of Galapagos cruise along the west coast of the continent that takes in Machu Picchu and the Amazon, and intrepid explorers can try the National Geographic Islander Cruise from Lindblad Expeditions, which stops at Sacred Valley, Quito and the Galapagos Islands.
Silversea cruises are an alternative option for holiday-makers with a slightly higher budget, and offer real extravagance on board. These ships, such as the Silver Cloud Expedition, have a slightly smaller capacity, so guests can rest assured they'll receive special treatment and enjoy the perfect luxury cruise experience.