Cruising to Chile — Past and Future

We stopped for lunch yesterday at a restaurant that specializes in soups. It’s owned by a man from Chile.

“We had a great bottle of wine from Chile last night,” we told him.

“You didn’t get sick?” he deadpanned.

He knows better, of course, but often when we see him his native country is discussed. He is one of our connections to Chile, a country we tasted — along with its wine — in a 10-day period during and after a South American cruise.

If you get the impression we like Chile, go to the front of the class…or go and buy the best Chilean wine you can find.

Our cruise to Chile (Valparaiso) was more than two years ago. Since then, it has almost fallen off the cruise-ship radar. The ship we sailed to Chile on, the Norwegian Sun, no longer goes there. Many cruise ships no longer go there and, Chile’s resulting financial wounds are mostly self-inflicted.

Or were.

Yesterday, about the same time we were eating Chilean soup (okay, soup made by a Chilean), we learned that things are looking up. The excessive port taxes imposed by Chile’s government, to capitalize on its cruise business, are being slashed. In some ports, the cut is as deep as 80 per cent.

We were in two ports on the way to Valparaiso, which is about a two-hour drive from Santiago. We loved them both. Arica, near the Atacama Desert, welcomed us to the country and Coquimbo introduced us to some excellent food.

Soup, as a matter of fact.

Another government imposition is being re-examined, and probably tossed. For some reason that makes no sense to us, ships sailing in Chilean waters were not allowed to operate casinos. Once they were within about 20 kilometers of the coast, the ships were deemed to be in Chilean waters.

There’s now a bill to rescind that ruling. Maybe it, and even the port taxes, are too late to bring cruise ships back to Chile. Some of us hope not. The more ships that sail down the west coast of South America, the more options there are for us.

The more options, the better the prices.

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