Excursions in General – my viewpoint
For us one of the most challenging aspects of cruising is finding the perfect excursion at the price point that you want and the number of people that you are comfortable with.
There are what I call two schools of thought on excursions. Some cruisers will only go on cruise line excursions thinking that if they are late the ship will wait for them and they feel safe with that knowledge. Others feel that cruise line excursions are over priced and large.
Let me first debunk the thought that the cruise line will wait for you. They will TRY to wait if they are able to but there is NO GUARANTEE. What a cruise sponsored excursion will do is to get you to your next port of call with no expense to you. Cruise sponsored excursions tend to use 45 passenger buses and what I have found the few times that I have used them – there is ALWAYS some person who thinks that the time to be on the bus does not apply to them.
From my experience of probably taking 25 or more cruises and excursions, I have never once been late or had to run to get up the gangway before they pulled it inside. To me, I have a few rules – I always tell the tour company/driver a time that I have to be back about 45 minutes to an hour before I need to be. giving myself a cushion just in case there are problems. Secondly, I read reviews of tour operators both on the Cruise Cruise Ports of Call thread as well as Trip Advisor tours/guides. I also correspond with the tour guides well in advance of our trip making sure that we are on the same page, and going over the time we need to be back. Again, earlier than I need to be.
As you might be able to tell, I enjoy booking my own excursion so I can see or do what I would like to. I feel fortunate that I am able to share these private excursions with my cruise’s Roll Call found on Cruise Critic. They tend to be like minded people who also want a smaller, more intimate experience for either the same price or most often, a less expensive price. The excursions that I will be writing about will primarily be ones that I booked and for the one that I took that was a ship’s excursion, I will identify it.
Our first stop after departing San Antonio was the city of Puerto Montt. There was no one thing that I wanted to see here but more of an overview of this part of the country. I worked with Patagonia Austral in booking a 45 passenger bus but limiting it to 35 passengers. Our itinerary was to visit Petrohué Falls & Todos los Santos Lake and the city of Puerto Montt. The tour left Puerto Montt toward Puerto Varas, known as the City of Roses, and stopped at the main square to view Lake Llanquihue with a photo opportunity of the Lake and Osorno Volcano.
The volcano was a beautiful snow capped mountain overlooking the lake. We kept taking photos through the bus window since it was so serene and scenic. We then continued to Ensenada, stopping at the lookout “Los Riscos” on Lake Llanquihue to view Osorno Volcano and more photo opportunities.
We then proceeded to the Crater “Green Lake” before returning to Ensenada to enjoy the included buffet lunch.
South Americans love their barbeque, even more so than many Americans do and their assortment of grilled meats was almost never ending. In addition, long tables of many different salads for us to eat. Finally, the desserts…oh my! There were so many, all different. Nobody’s sweet tooth went unanswered.
After lunch we went to Petrohue Falls in the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park. We walked along the path with our tour guide telling us about the area. We saw some beautiful but small waterfalls and rushing waters. This park was Blogger Hubby’s favorite since it was one of their national parks.
We had some extra time since my group was very good at getting back to the bus on time so our guide had the driver take us to Puerto Varas for some shopping time, walk to the Lake or just wander around for a little bit. Women had alpaca and jewelry on their minds while the men held the bags and hoped that they weren’t spending too much this early in the trip. They had some very nice things in these stores and I wished I hadn’t waited to see what else there would be further along in the trip. Chile is where you can get alpaca products so purchase in Chile and not try to find something in Argentina at the end of the trip (side note: we were cruising from the west coast to the east coast).
In the square the musicians were playing traditional music as they tried to sell some of us their CD’s. We found a park bench, listened to the music as we looked over the lake – certainly a peaceful feeling in a picturesque part of Chile. I would definitely go back to Puerto Varas along the lake for a short vacation if I was to return to this part of Chile.
The tour was $70 per person. Our tour guide gave us all a bottle of water and maps of the area. Since I organized the tour and filled the bus, my husband and I were given discounts. I found them easy to work with and we stayed in good communication with each other. For payment, they, like most of the other tour vendors on this trip wanted US dollars in large denominations that were clean, unmarked and no folds to them. Apparently their banks will not accept the bills that way. I did have to provide to them a list of those going on this tour, their nationality and their passport number. I found out later as I was working with other tour operators that this is not unusual in Chile.
I did not receive any payment from Patagonia Austral for this blog post. These are strictly my comments. I would recommend them if your cruise stops at Puerto Montt. You can reach them at :
As I mentioned above, the tour cost us $70 and the Princess cruise that was most like this charged $159. We got back in plenty of time to stand in line to take a tender back. While you are in the terminal building, look around at craft items that locals are selling.