South America is the new Alaska. Really! For travelers in search of rugged natural beauty, breathtaking mountain peaks, fjords that stretch nearly forever, cosmopolitan cities, indigenous historic peoples and cultures, and vast tropical rainforests, South America is a cruise revelation. This huge continent covers thousands of miles and extends from the equatorial tropics to the sub-Antarctic. It is exotic in a way that can't actually be matched by Alaska -- and that's for a couple of reasons. The 14 countries and territories that comprise the continent are, of course, diverse; some bear the imprimatur of colonial Spanish or Portuguese legacies, others that of indigenous tribes of Indians whose cultures continue their impact. You'll experience no trace of cruise ship congestion -- whether sailing in a fjord or docking in Buenos Aires. There's plenty of room for all the ships that call there. South America is, of course, too big to sample on a single cruise (it's so big, in fact, that the weather variations run the absolute gamut, from steamy and sultry in the equatorial Amazon to brisk and nippy down in the Cape Horn/Beagle Channel region). Though all-Brazil and even Antarctica itineraries are on the rise, there are two primary routes -- and not only do they rarely connect but they also are incredibly different. Around-the-horn cruises typically sail between Buenos Aires and Valparaiso, and features lots of fjords, the wild beauty of Patagonia and Cape Horn -- the southernmost point on the continent.