In advance of our 7-night South American cruise sailing from Santos, I read a lot of reviews from Americans complaining about various aspects of this sailing. Mostly, they seemed upset that not everything in Santos, Brazil is as English-speaking, organized, and catered to their every whim as it would be in, say, Seattle. So let's talk about what it's like to do the sailing from Santos:
First, don't expect your fellow passengers to be speaking English. 90% plus of the passengers are Brazillian, and so most of the ship's activities are in Portuguese. That said, the entire crew speaks English (and most even speak Spanish), and I thought they did an excellent job balancing the languages. We even went to a small event that was supposed to be in all Portuguese, and they brought out additional staff to essentially simulcast it in English just for us. Cruisers are well advised to learn some basic Portuguese, including the essential phrase "eu não falo português." Shore excursions will be few and far between in English. Some are bilingual, and there are more excursions available in Portuguese than English. If you're just in it for the experience (i.e. sea lion island at Punte del Este), go for the Portuguese excursion! If the guide and passengers know you speak English, they will make sure you understand the important things.
Second, there are a lot of lines on this cruise. A weird amount. Lines form early, and they get really long. We checked in at the height of the process, and the line was pretty disorganized and long. That said, we rolled with it and figured it out. If you're worried, try to check in right at 10:30 AM. The line for the tender tickets in Punta del Este started like 45 minutes before they were supposed to be given out, and the line back to the ship's tenders was crazy long (we ended up leaving the port like an hour and a half late). So plan for lines.
Third, some logistical information for those looking at how to get to and from the cruise. Santos is not in Sao Paulo - it's about 1-2 hours away by bus. You can take a bus from the GRU airport through a company called Cometa. They have a little window at Terminal 2 where you can pick up or buy tickets (we bought in advance on line with the help of Google Translate). The tickets are really cheap - my recollection is about 8 dollars. When you check in for the cruise, they take your passport and don't give it back until the last day. Behind the scenes, they're working with border patrol in every country and clearing everyone that way rather than creating yet another line. It's a bit disconcerting not to have your passport with you ashore, but we felt pretty secure with just our driver's licenses.
The rest of the cruise - the food, the cabin, the fitness center, the entertainment - was pretty much par for the course for a ship of this size. We had an all-English speaking dinner table, which was pretty nice, and our state room attendant knew to speak to us in English and give us the English cruise compass.
All in all, it was a fun experience in some foreign countries, with what I thought was a typical amount of "roll with it" moments where we were confused or frustrated because everything wasn't laid our perfectly for us. This will not be one of the cruises where you're in your wheelhouse 100% of the time.
The interior state room was exactly what I expected based on other cruises. Cozy, but clean and easy enough to manage. Our state room attendant was excellent. Weird fact: the ESPN channel on this ship was broadcasting entire days of coverage from early July! It was pretty cool to see baseball and soccer games in January!
The best of Sao Paulo tour was interesting. Our guide didn't speak the best English, and she was a bit under-enthused, but it was a great way to see the city. We didn't have all that much time outside of the bus because there were restrictions on where the bus could park. Lunch at the churrascaria was excellent, and driving through the shadier parts of the city (i.e. the favelas) was fascinating and depressing. We went to a modern art museum, which was pretty cool!View All 6 Sao Paulo Tour Reviews
Not sure this is fairly characterized as a walking tour. We did the 4-hour highlights tour, which made three stops: Plaza de Mayo, La Boca, and Recoleta Cemetary. Given that we had so much time in port, it was a really good way to get an overview of the city and hit some of the important parts before striking out on our own. There was a pretty good amount of time to walk around at every stop, and the bus drove past a lot of landmarks. Eduardo, our tour guide, spoke very good English and Portuguese!View All 10 City Walking Tour Reviews
Montevideo is definitely a tale of two cities. If you follow the walking tour exactly and stay in the touristy areas, it's charming and great. If you stray from the beaten path, it looks like a city that's seen some better days. We took a long walk up to the legislative palace, and passed a pretty equal amount of beautiful and depressing sights. Not as big, vibrant, or thriving as Buenos Aires, but still worth seeing.