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Copyright © 1995-2002 
Linda Coffman

 

Cruise Diva's CRUISE DIARY
~ Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires ~

Argentina: Buenos Aires, Sunday ~ December 1, 2002

Casa Rosada

Don't Cry For Me, Argentina—from the words and music of Andrew Lloyd Weber to a movie starring Madonna, artists have been inspired by the history of Argentina's capital city. Vibrant and pulsating with energy, I couldn't wait to experience the city that stage and film only hint at.

The tour of Buenos Aires' contemporary sights began with a drive along wide, tree lined boulevards punctuated by elegant parks. From military heroes to the ubiquitous Eva Peron, statues and monuments in the many squares trace the city's tumultuous historic events.

Our first stop was in La Recoleta, one of the city's most fashionable neighborhoods, where we strolled through the impressive cemetery. Small plots of land are adorned by mausoleums, ranging from dignified to gaudy, in a high-rent "city" for the dead. Recoleta's most famous inhabitant is Eva Duarte Peron, wife of Argentine general and dictator Juan Peron and the adopted saint of the working class. After a mysterious 'world tour' her body found repose in the Duarte family mausoleum.

Continuing our drive through the "Paris of the Southern Hemisphere," I was struck by the architectural contrasts and wide, wide avenues—the Avenue 9th of July is the widest in South America and possibly the world. We wound through streets lined with modern high-rise condos and stately colonial style mansions (once the homes of wealthy Argentines, most now house foreign embassies). The city has so much public art on display that it seems to be an open-air museum for the enjoyment of all.

After a tour through the magnificent Opera House, we crossed to the Plaza de Mayo, site of Casa Rosada. The pink palace is the home of the President of Argentina, made famous for its balcony where Juan and Eva Peron appeared to address cheering throngs of supporters.

Shops exhibit high end merchandise at bargain prices for visitors and the pedestrian street, Avenida Florida, thrills avid shoppers with designer clothing, jewelry, shoes, and leather goods.

Buenos Aires is so huge, I felt overwhelmed by just a taste of the city. Some day I would like to return to spend more time in La Boca, one of the most colorful neighborhoods where a chic artist colony has been established in the midst of the brothels that are said to be the birthplace of the tango.

Speaking of tango, it universally defines the passion of Buenos Aires and no visit would be complete without seeing a performance in one of the many clubs devoted to tango music and dance. I enjoyed a delicious dinner of Argentinean beef at the club named for Carlos Gardel, the recording star who elevated tango from the streets to respectability. Sensuous and spectacular, the costumes, music, and performers drew not only tourists, but parties of local residents as well.

Alas, the cruise portion of my journey was at an end and it was time to pack. My larger suitcases would be waiting for me on Tuesday at the Park Tower Hotel and I carried a small tote bag for the overnight post-cruise excursion to Iguazu Falls.

Argentina: Iguazu Falls, Monday & Tuesday ~ December 2-3, 2002

Debarking Silver Shadow was a seamless process and our small group was escorted by our guide Cali to the nearby domestic airport for the two-hour flight to the falls. Timing was critical and Cali made it seem effortless, sheperding us through airports, our hotel, and finally, the falls themselves. Joined by Nani, our local guide, we checked into rooms at the Hotel Internacional overlooking the falls and immediately set out through the rain forest on the open-air train for Devil's Throat. A series of pathways and catwalks snake through the National Park, making all areas of the falls accessible on the Argentine side. I was amazed at how close we were—the force of the water exhilarated us as we literally ventured over and under many of the 275 waterfalls.

Every color of the rainbow is represented in park—lush green vegetation studded with tropical flowers, brilliantly hued birds, and everywhere the water ranges from frothy clear to cafe au lait and chocolate. In spots, the falls reminded me of a root beer float. To say it was the most breathtaking site I've seen in my travels, would be an understatement. Tucans flew overhead and butterflies fluttered at our sides while lizards and ring tailed coati skurried past our feet. Thankfully, we weren't confronted by the jaguars and pumas that also inhabit the park.

Up early the next day, we entered Brazil to explore the falls from their National Park on the opposite side. The views are more panoramic and, depending on the wind, the walkways are even wetter. It was surreal to don a plastic poncho and stand over the surging water as spray and rainbows enveloped us.

I'm not sure how many miles we walked, but by the time I was ensconced in a plush suite in the Park Tower Hotel in Buenos Aires that afternoon, all I wanted was a nap. Iguazu Falls is not for wimps, although our fellow visitors ranged in age from young children to senior citizens.

After a quiet day of shopping on Avenida Florida, it was time to leave for the airport and flights for home. The warmth and friendliness of the people in Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina linger and I hope to return someday.

Next -> Lasting Impressions 
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