I never thought taking a cruise was for me. Just sitting around on a ship instead of actually travelling through the country and seeing all its marvels? No, thanks. I’d rather take an overland trip any time.
Then I planned my trip to Chile and some friends of mine highly recommended to do a cruise with Navimag Ferries once I got to Patagonia. They were gushing about it so much that I simply could not ignore it. Therefore, last October, just at the start of the tourist season in Patagonia, I boarded the Navimag Evangelista in Puerto Montt for the three-day cruise south to Puerto Natales.
I absolutely loved it.
Of course, you can argue that there’s a huge difference between a ferry and a stereotypical cruise ship. The Navimag ferry mainly transports goods to some out-of-the-way places in the Chilean part of Patagonia and only carries some passengers as an extra. Still, the part I always thought would drive me crazy during a cruise – having nothing to do than look out at the water and, in this case, the amazing Patagonian Fjords – was exactly what I loved about it.
An obligatory break
There was no wi-fi on the ferry, no luxury, and not much to do. They did offer some very basic entertainment, which was entirely voluntary. There were yoga and Tai-Chi lessons, as well as presentations on both the cruise itself and on Torres del Paine. This National Park near Puerto Natales was the place about 99% of us were about to visit after the cruise.
There was a movie night, where another traveller and I convinced them to watch The Revenant rather than their original choice of Eat Pray Love. For a film watched while crossing through the cold and sometimes harsh Patagonian landscape, images of Bali just didn’t seem fitting.
We also got to see the bridge and ask the captain everything we ever wanted to know about ferrying through Patagonia. Probably the most pressing question of every passenger: How likely is it that we see whales?
Spoiler alert: we didn’t. But it’s generally possible during a Patagonian cruise.
All of this was actually a lot more entertainment than I had expected. The description my friends had given me was that there is absolutely nothing to do on board. Maybe they only added these things in the last couple of years. Anyway, even with these entertainment options and three delicious meals a day, there was plenty of time left for just doing absolutely nothing.
Mostly, we would spend our days either on the outer deck, watching the landscape go past, or inside, reading a book or chatting with fellow passengers. The latter especially when it was very cold and/or wet outside, which can easily happen in Patagonia.
Those were some of the most relaxed few days I have had on this entire South America trip. It was beautiful.
Meeting fellow travellers in a relaxed environment
I had originally booked a four-bed shared interior cabin. However, as this was one of the first cruises of the season (which starts in mid-October, when it’s spring in Patagonia), the ferry was half-empty and many people got a free cabin upgrade, including me. I now found myself in an exterior two-bed cabin I had all to myself. No complaints there.
In a way, this also led me to meet the people I would mostly hang out with during the cruise. At the first meal, I joined a table of four girls. They were all travelling solo but sharing a cabin. When they asked where my roommates were and I said I didn’t have any, they happily took me in. Thus, they became my go-to cruise companions.
All four came from different countries with different histories and backgrounds, so we never ran out of topics. Of course, that doesn’t mean we didn’t connect to other travellers as well. There were about a hundred of us on the ship, after all. Nothing like being stuck together on a boat for three days to form friendships.
Marvelling at the Patagonian landscapes
Whenever we were not driven back inside by the weather (or being called in by the amazing food), most of us would just hang around on the outer deck. We’d watch the fjords, always one eye on the water to spot any animals. We saw deserted mountains, far-off villages, and impressive snow-covered peaks, including the famous Torres of Torres del Paine National Park.
Once, we passed an old shipwreck that has been sitting there since the fifties. Other times, the fjords simply stunned us with their mountains scenery, their lush vegetation and waterfalls. On top of that, there were the occasional dolphin or seal sightings, which always caused excited squeals from everyone on deck.
We had to navigate some tight spots that the ferry only just fit through. Then we cruised for some time through the open ocean, where we got to watch a spectacular sunset over the water.
In short: we may have been doing nothing except looking at the landscape, but that was in itself a pretty spectacular activity.
A carefree holiday
I think what I loved most about this trip was, I didn’t have to worry about anything. You just watch the landscape go by until they ring the bell to tell you it was time for lunch or dinner. They also always made announcements when any activities were about to start, or when we passed any particularly exciting or beautiful spots. All you had to worry about was wearing enough clothes, so you wouldn’t freeze outside.
If you’re an introvert looking for a trip that is relaxed and stunning at the same time, you should try a Patagonian cruise. Trust me, you won’t need more entertainment than that.
Have you ever been on a Patagonian cruise? What was it like? Are you more the basic and relaxed type, or do you prefer a bit more luxury and entertainment on your cruise ship? Share in the comments.