Port of Call Ushuaia

Ushuaia, Argentina, Gateway to Antarctica

Introduction
Ushuaia under the Martial mountain range
Sea lions in the Beagle Channel

Ushuaia is often referred to as the end of the world and is the capital of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. It is recognized as the southernmost city in the world. Ushuaia is located in a wide bay on the southern coast of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, bounded on the north by the Martial mountain range, and on the south by the Beagle Channel. It is a popular port of departure for ships and expeditions headed to Antarctica. A little over a decade ago the cities population was less than 10,000 while today it is approaching 100,000. This is partly due to the growing popularity of Antarctic tourism but equally because the Argentinian government has encouraged manufacturing with special tax breaks as well as subsidies for people living here.

The Beagle Channel is the most northern natural channel connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific and has been a popular shipping lane. South of the Beagle Channel is Tierra del Fuego which means land of fire. Because the area was often shrouded in fog early explorers called it the land of smoke which was exaggerated in Europe for advertising purposes into land of fire. A large part of Tierra del Fuego is an Argentine national park.

Where You Dock
Expedition boat getting ready

Ushuaia has a large pier right at the cities waterfront capable of handling most ships. It is usually busy in season with expedition boats getting ready for Antarctic tours along with large cruise ships rounding the Horn or setting out for Antarctic waters. Right at the end of the pier is the cities visitor center with facilities and information on tours and the city. Also along the waterfront are a number of tour booking offices.

Transportation
Puppy love 😉

While the city has a population of almost 100,000 it is geographically compact with most restaurants, cafes and shops located within a ten by six block area. While the Pan-American Highway passes through the city it is also isolated with no other towns or cities nearby. The big attraction for a visitor is the national park and the animal life on island is the Beagle Channel which are best visited on a tour.

Currency

At this writing the exchange rate is about 38 Argentine Pesos to one US Dollar. Because of inflation rates over the past several years buying Pesos before leaving the United States is almost impossible. In the city many shops will accept Euros and American Dollars but it is advisable to exchange some currency for convenience.

Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego
Attractions

Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park) is probably one of the major attractions in the area. It is also the terminus of the Pan-American Highway that ends in a narrow dirt road inside the park. There are also a number of islands near the city in the Beagle Channel that are popular with penguins, seals, sea lions, cormorants along with whales depending on the season. There are a number of tour boats along the waterfront to book.

Cormorant island

In town there are a number of excellent restaurants, cafes, and chocolate shops along with gift shops. The city also can boast that they are home to a Hard Rock Cafe

Advertisements

Port of Call Madryn, Argentina

Porta Madryn, Argentina – the Heart of Patagonia

Introduction

Puerto Madryn is an amazing city that is very popular with cruise itineraries in South America. While Mydryn itself is a modern and thriving city with much to offer, the big attraction in the area is the national parks. The park of Mirador Elefantes Marinos has become famous for colonies of penguins, sea lions and seals along with pods of orcas. The orcas have gained a lot of notoriety in recent years for coming up to the beach to grab seals in the surf.

Where You Dock

Puerto Madryn has a large marine pier right in the center of the city capable of handling large cruise ships. A walk down the pier puts you right in the middle of the CBD with good restaurants, cafes and shops along with a large selection of tour operators. All along the waterfront is a wide beach with a walking promenade.

Transportation

Madryn is a port city boasting a large deep-water port and is also a major industrial city, mainly focused on aluminum production and fishing. Puerto Madryn is also in an isolated area of Patagonia with the biggest attractions in the area being the national parks. Trips out to the parks can take between one and a half to two hours each way and the best way to visit is to book a tour. Other than walking the best way to get around the city itself is by taxi.

Currency

At this writing the exchange rate is about 38 Argentine Pesos to one US Dollar. Because of inflation rates over the past several years buying Pesos before leaving the United States is almost impossible. Because of the high number of visiting tourists, in the CBD many shops will accept Euros and American Dollars. It is still advisable to exchange some currency for convenience.

Attractions

It is one of the most vibrant cities in Patagonia, with a beautiful coastal avenue overlooking Nuevo Gulf. As noted the focus of the tourist business is visiting the parks to see the penguins, seals and orcas. In town there are a number of shops and cafes  with over a dozen good restaurants within a block of the waterfront. One of the local favorite pastimes is drinking coffee with chocolates in the many chocolate shops along the waterfront.

Port of Call New Orleans

Cruise Port New Orleans, The Big Easy

The French Quarter

To begin with New Orleans is a destination virtually in a class by itself. The city is famous for its history having been settled first by French trappers in the seventeenth century, than ceded to the Spanish in 1762 by Treaty. Following a number of fires in the late eighteenth century the Spanish rebuilt the French Quarter using mostly fired brick, including the most impressive structure in New Orleans, St. Louis Cathedral. The architectural character of the French Quarter, including multi-storied buildings with inner courtyards, arched doorways, and the extensive use of decorative wrought iron, were actually characteristic of the Spanish colonies

Beginning in 1800 Spain and France signed a series of treaties stipulating that Spain give Louisiana back to France, these confirmed and finalized the retrocession of Spanish Louisiana to France. In April 1803, Napoleon sold Louisiana which then included portions of more than a dozen present-day states along with New Orleans to the U.S. in the Louisiana Purchase.

Involved in a war with England, in 1814 New Orleans defended itself against a large English force sent to take the city. Marshaling forces (regular, militia, and naval) and recruiting pirates led by Jean Lafitte, Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson routed the British in a decisive battle in the early morning of January 8, 1815.

Anchored by the famous French Quarter with its iconic architecture the downtown area wasn’t big enough to hold all that was going on so it’s spread out into the adjacent neighborhoods and the warehouse district with famous eateries, clubs and trendy galleries.

night on Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street at night

Famous for throwing one of America’s biggest parties each year called Mardi Grau, the truth is the party virtually never stops in this city. The sidewalks of Bourbon Street are packed at night and some of its bars and restaurants virtually never close. Home to a musical tradition second to none and a restaurant scene famous around the world New Orleans isn’t just a cruise port it’s a destination.

Where You Dock

The Mississippi waterfront runs along the French Quarter and the growing Warehouse District and in the middle of it all is the Riverwalk Mall where the cruise ships tie up. Virtually in the heart of everything the cruise terminal is attached to the outlet shops of the Riverwalk Shopping Mall and only blocks from Canal Street and The French Quarter.

Transportation

If you are flying into New Orleans to catch a cruise expect to pay a little over $50 for a taxi ride to the cruise terminal. There is a public bus route that will take you into downtown from the airport for less that $4 but the trip takes about forty minutes. We have found an advertised shuttle to be unreliable but the airport has a very convenient ride share pick-up area. A recent Lyft ride cost us $32.

In downtown New Orleans there are numerous good hotels and if you aren’t up to walking there are pedicabs, street cars and easy to catch taxis.

Currency

Being the United States the currency is the Dollar and if you are visiting from out of the country you will find a number of conveniently located currency exchange outlets along with ATM machines.

Attractions

New Orleans is an attraction in itself. Just walking the French Quarter, listening to street music, eating Creole food, visiting Jackson Square and window shopping is a true experience but there are some other things to consider:

St. Louis Cathedral

St. Louis Cathedral built in 1789 is the oldest cathedral in the United States.

Saint Louis Cemetery is a famous New Orleans cemetery (actually 3) where most of the graves are above-ground vaults constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Preservation Hall is a jazz venue in the French Quarter. The building is famous for a house band, a record label, and a music foundation.

The National WWII Museum, formerly The National D-Day Museum, a military history museum located in the Central Business District. NewOrleans was the manufacturing center for the landing craft used for WWII beach assaults. The museum focuses on the contribution made by the United States to Allied victory in World War II.

The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas located on the waterfront is run by the Audubon Institute, which also operates the New Orleans Audubon Zoo and the Insectarium on Canal Street.

 

Food

When it comes to food New Orleans has more than its share of famous chefs including Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, John Besh, John Folse,, Donald Link, and on and on. With restaurants like Emeril’s New Orleans, K. Paul, Commanders Palace, Brennen’s, and Emeril’s Delmonico you’ll run out of time before you run out of great restaurants.

Port Of Call Buenos Aries

Cruise Port Buenos Aries Argentina Gateway To Cape Horn And Antarctica

One of South America’s busiest cruise ports, Buenos Aries is one of the largest cities in South America with a lot to see and do. Famous for the Tango and great steaks it is also a treasure trove of history and packed full of interesting sights. Most cruises are using Buenos Aries as a embarkation or disembarkation port but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked as a destination in its own right. You will discover that hotels are moderately priced and good restaurants are plentiful and inexpensive.

Where the Ship Docks
View of the port area

Buenos Aries does not have a very convenient port facility and it has been that way for a number of years. It doesn’t look as if they are in any hurry to upgrade. While it does have a cruise terminal it is located so far from most piers that they use buses to get passengers to the ships after check-in. Be aware that you are boarding the ship from the pier and they us an erector set structure of steep ramps to access the ship. It is very unfriendly for people traveling in wheel chairs. You also cannot walk in or out of the port from the ships. The terminal facility is located only a couple of miles from the downtown area but it is not easy to reach on foot and the only easily available transportation are taxis (more on taxi under transportation).

Cruise port boarding ramps
Transportation

If you are going to or coming from the cruise terminal you are pretty much going to be getting a taxi. While you can walk out from the terminal it is almost a mile walk to the nearest metro station located near the Sheraton hotel and that’s along heavily trafficked roads. It’s an additional half mile to the nearest shopping mall.

Taxis are supposed to be metered in Buenos Aries but there are a number of exceptions and add-on fees which we often have trouble understanding. Because of that taxis can be very inexpensive but also be prepared to be often surprised. For us a taxi from the Obalisque area to the in-town airport was 400 pesos while a ride the other way the next evening cost 700 pesos.

Buenos Aries has an excellent and modern subway system (Subte) with two hurdles to overcome for foreign visitors. First, like much of the city there is very little signage in anything but Spanish and few locals speak anything but Spanish. Second you need a SUBE card to ride which is available at subte stations, or at our eight Tourist Assistance Centers. We did not see any information regarding a one or two day visitor card either. OFFICIAL METRO SITE IN ENGLISH

Taking a taxi to the port is pretty straight forward but we would recommend flagging a cab on the street and traveling on the meter. Several times we paid much higher fares after having our hotel call a taxi for us. Traveling from the Odalisque to the port on a meter should run 300 to 350 Pesos (tipping is not customary).

Leaving the port is another story. There seems to be a system in place to extract significantly higher fares from passengers. Upon exiting we were told that all taxis are on a fixed fare (no meters) from the port and a ride to the Obalisque would be US$15 or 600 Pesos (that conversion rate made the dollar quote much cheaper?). We had similar experiences using taxis to and from the in-town and international airport.

The International Airport is a good distance out of town with a taxi ride from the port recently quoted at US$40. We took a metered taxi from our hotel near the Odalisque for less than US$25 in Pesos. Many taxis actually prefer US$ at this time.

Currency

At this writing the exchange rate is about 38 Argentine Pesos to one US Dollar. Because of inflation rates over the past several years buying Pesos before leaving the United States is almost impossible. It is also very difficult to use American Dollars in Argentina except in high tourist locations. Money Exchange locations are sparse and at high traffic places, like the airport, the rates aren’t very good. In town you can get better rates buying Pesos mostly because there is speculation among changers against the Peso. We eventually used a shop advertising Western Union and got more than fair rate.

The Presidential Palace
Attractions

Buenos Aries is a large metropolitan area and like most it covers a wide range of environments. You will find everything from grand residences, and upscale neighborhoods to large slums. It is home to the Tango and there are stage shows, small clubs and barrios (neighborhoods) where you can see this remarkable tradition. There are great restaurants and cafes and numerous historic buildings. Do yourself a favor and spend a few days seeing this lively and interesting city. One suggestion we offer is try and plan a trip out to Iguassu Falls. It requires a plane ride and probably two days to see but it is one of the world’s natural wonders.

Cruise Port of Call Akaroa, New Zealand

The cruise port of Akaroa, New Zealand is seeing more frequent visits by cruise ships with the growing popularity of  cruising around Australia and New Zealand.

The cruise port of call Akaroa, New Zealand is located on the southeast side of sheltered Akaroa Harbor, centered on the cute resort township of Akaroa. It is on the east coast of New Zealand’s south island. With frequent cruise ship visits this quant resort town is becoming more and  more popular. 

 

Historically its heritage is unique as it was the only French settlement in New Zealand. The region was named for the botanist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook on the Endeavour.

Geologically it was originally an island formed by two volcanoes. The current peninsula has two ancient craters which form Lyttelton and Akaroa Harbors. The region was named for the botanist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook on the HMS Endeavour.

Where You’re Docked – Cruise ships need to anchor out and use tenders to reach the Akaroa dock. The dock is the focus of a number of boat tours and water attractions and is located right in the town near restaurants and shops.

Money – New Zealand uses the NZ$ which currently is worth US$0.70 and you will need to exchange money or use credit cards while visiting.

Attractions – Akaroa, is famous for its several beautiful bays and harbors and there are numerous boat tours as well as sea kayaking. In Flea bay, a couple of miles southeast of town, is a rare penguin colony. Akaroa harbor is home to the worlds rarest and smallest dolphin, the Hector’s dolphins  and Akaroa is the only place in the world where you can take a trip out to swim with them. A short walk out of town is Meniscus Wines, a vineyard which usually is open when ships are visiting. Also not to miss is The Giants House, a unique sculpture mosaic garden above town.

 

Port of Bangkok, Laem Chabang

Laem Chabang Cruise Gateway to Bangkok, Thailand

Cruising in the South China Sea is becoming increasingly popular which normally includes one or two ports of call in Thailand.

Thailand is one of the most advanced and open nations in Southeast Asia, and was once known as Siam. It is bordered by Myanmar (Burma) to the north, Laos to the northeast, Cambodia to the southeast and Malaysia on the south along Thailand’s isthmus. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, and tourists are welcomed with open arms by these friendly people.

 

Where The Ship Docks

Most cruise ships dock at the port of Laem Chabang on the Gulf of Thailand, a full two hours south of Bangkok, the nation’s capital.

Often smaller ships dock at Klong Toey on the Chao Phraya River, right on the outskirts of Bangkok.

Terminal facilities at Laem Chabang

This port is located along the southeast coast and serves primarily as a working industrial port. While there are supposed to be facilities being developed to include a terminal currently there is not much there for cruise passengers.

Inside the Grand Palace Complex
Transportation

Getting into Bangkok by taxi is estimated to cost about $40 each way with bus service costing about $7.50. We ran into some people that tried the buses and eventually gave up trying to catch the right bus and hired a taxi.

The roads and highways in Thailand are very well maintained and if you want to go it alone and see some of the countryside there are good car rental services. We’ve always been amazed with Thailands highway rest stops usually lined with a half dozen or more American franchises. One rental company near Laem Chabang that comes highly recommended is:

Take it Easy Bike & Car Rental

Address: 329/48, Soi Pattaya New Plaza, 50m off 2nd Road, Opposite Soi 7 – Soi 8, Central Pattaya, Pattaya 20150 .                      Phone: 089 007 7804    Rental cars can be arranged ahead of arrival for pick up at the port through their web site.

On our last visit we were on a cruise that spent two days in Laem Chabang. After some research we pre-booked a private tour through Travel Hub. They picked us up at the port and took us straight to Bangkok where we spent a busy day with that night in a hotel. Early the next morning we headed out into the country and ended up at the port with plenty of time to spare.

Currency

Thailand uses the Baht at an exchange rate to the U.S. Dollar of one Baht equals about 3¢. While most credit cards are welcome if you are going to spend a day or two in Bangkok it is recommended that you exchange for local Baht.

The Reclining Buddha
Attractions

The capital city of Bangkok is the big attraction, with the best place to start being the Grand Palace. This is the central sightseeing attraction in the city, and it’s overwhelming in its historical significance and stunning architecture. The grounds are packed full with royal palaces, temples, and history, the highlight is Wat Phra Kaeo, Temple of the Emerald Buddha. A relic within this temple is said to be a piece of bone from the Buddha himself. While there also visit the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, its official name is Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn and it measures 135 feet long. Allow a number of hours to do the Grand Palace grounds but also try and visit the famous Wat Po and Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn rising above the Chao Phraya River. We would also recommend taking a water trip through canals and along the river.

Thailand is also famous for floating markets where goods are sold from boats. Originally developed when rivers and canals played an important role in daily life, most floating markets operating today serve primarily as tourist attractions.

Maeklong Railway Market

One unique market is the Famous Maeklong Railway Market. It is located in a congested town and sits right on an active train track. As trains approach vendors pull back their awnings and displays with only minutes to spare and are right back in business as soon as the trains pass. A unique experience as you stand there with train only only inches away.

While there are tons of cultural and historic attractions to see in Bangkok and the people are remarkably polite and friendly be aware of con artists; who frequently prey on tourists. Though the cruise port is a good distance from the city, venturing into the city to see the sights is something that shouldn’t be missed.

The Port of Honolulu Hawaii

Cruise Port Honolulu Hawaii

Honolulu is a frequent stop for cruise ships repositioning in the Pacific, cruises going out of the west coast of the U.S. And Canada as well as cruising the Hawaiian Islands. It is the largest city in the islands, the states Capital and gateway to Hawaii’s most developed island.

General

Honolulu is located on the island of Oahu with a number of areas to visit and sights to see. Nearby is Pearl Harbor with the museums and memorials and in the other direction is Waikiki Beach with the hotels and shopping. This island and city are major tourist destinations and to get a feel for Oahu you need a number of days.

Where The Ships Dock

The cruise piers are located on the northwest side of Honolulu between Waikiki Beach and the International Airport. Cruise ships dock at either the Aloha Tower (pier 11) or Pier 2 about a quarter mile more to the south (primarily used by NCL for Hawaiian cruises). Aloha Tower is conveniently located not far from the downtown area and the Aloha Tower Marketplace. There are facilities located at the cruise terminal and you can walk out without much difficulty. “Downtown” with its shopping and “Waikiki Beach” are not the same location so if you want to visit this famous beach area you will need transportation.

Transportation

For a short visit we would recommend trying to share a cab with others to get to Waikiki Beach, share costs and save time. Local public service is with TheBus and the ride to the beach doesn’t long. If you want to take TheBus a 1-Day Pass is $5.50. Ask your bus operator for the 1-Day

Pass before placing your money in the farebox. It’s valid 12:01 a.m. To 2:59 a.m. the next day, for up to 27 hours of unlimited rides. Our preference is to rent a car. Rates are usually very reasonable and since you are in the United States your insurance covers you. Oahu is a pretty big island with 3 major highways (H-1, H-2 and H-3) and we would strongly suggest that you use GPS navigation. The street anmes are difficult to pronounce and remember and the roads tend to wind around.

Currency

This is the 50th state and the US Dollar is currency.

Attractions

We’ve taken the Waikiki Trolley tour and found it way overpriced for what you get to see. Again we recommend renting a car if you want to see the island. A short taxi ride into the center of the beach is a better investment. If it’s going to be a first trip don’t miss a visit to Pearl Harbor with the USS Arizona Memorial (last we heard it was closed for refurbishment) and the USS Missouri. In Honolulu there are almost too many attractions to count, from shows to an aquarium and zoo. For the best view on the island drive up to Hawaii puu ualakaa state park with the overlook above Honolulu on Mount Tantalus. We love the North Shore with the surf at the Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay and a number of great small towns (look for the food trucks) and Waimea Falls Park. There is also The Dole Plantation in mid-island and also a couple of beautiful gardens to check out. Above all else is the ocean and the beaches and the reefs. Snorkeling and diving opportunities abound and depending on the season you can go whale watching too.