We were on the “Inca Discovery” cruise on the Statendam Nov 10 thru Dec 6. We were docked at Lima for 3 days and 2 nights, where some passengers started or ended the cruise. Those people could do the Machu Picchu trip as a pre or post cruise tour. However, since we did the round trip, we did the Machu Picchu trip as a shore excursion.
If you peruse the HAL South America brochure, you will find the Machu Picchu trip is significantly cheaper as a pre or post cruise tour, than it is as a shore excursion. This difference makes no sense, and I could not get a straight answer from HAL as to why this is the case. I think that it is a simple case of what the traffic will bear. However, we did learn that the people who successfully arranged their own Machu Picchu tour did so as a pre or post cruise tour. I believe that the 3 day 2 night shore excursion is too tight a schedule to do it yourself, i.e. the pre/post cruise tour competes with the “do it yourself” tours, but the shore excursion does not.
Yes, we also experienced “sticker shock” at the tour cost. We purchased the “superior” rather than the “standard” tour. We figured that as long as we were blowing that much money, we might as well go all the way!
Enough of the negative – now the positive. To visit Peru without visiting Machu Picchu would be a shame, a decision I believe you will always regret. It has got to be one of the most, if not the most, breath taking, awe inspiring sight in the Americas. Also, the visit to Cuzco and the train ride from Cuzco to Machu Picchu is a very important part of the experience.
I recommend that you buy the “superior” package. We were glad we did. We were in a much smaller group than the regular tour. We stayed at the Monasterio Hotel in Cuzco, an experience in itself. The “Hiram Bingham” train has 4 star food and service, both ways. This train had only three cars: one for the kitchen and staff, one for the passengers, and a bar and lounge car – really nice. We visited the ruins in mid to late afternoon – the big tour groups had already left.
That 3 day 2-night trip is something we will relive many times in our memories and snapshots.
Hope this helps,