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Cusco altitude on land tour, mid-cruise? Machu Picchu, etc


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Has anyone done a mid- or post/pre cruise which includes a side trip to Machu Picchu? I'm looking at a couple of cruises (Sapphire Princess, for one) that include flights directly into Cusco, at 11,000 feet, and tours of the city that begin right after getting off the airplane. I'm wondering how this all works out with a bunch of geezers. 


I have gone to Machu Picchu before, but I booked my own tours, and, on the advice of other travelers, immediately made a descent into the Sacred Valley - 9,000 feet - to avoid the lower oxygen levels of Cusco. I remember stepping off the plane and first thinking: geez, I hope I can make it to the shuttle van! I wasn't the only one; my 14 y/o daughter was with me and she felt the same. Once inside the shuttle van we each leaned back our seats to relieve the dizziness. I cannot imagine doing a walking tour of Cusco within hours of leaving the ship, at sea level. 


Anyone who can share their experience? 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Not directly from a cruise ship to Cusco, but have gotten off a plane and onto a tour bus there. The bus had small oxygen tanks for if anyone in our group was having an issue. Not to keep with you, but to take a few hits so to speak.

My favorite tip for high altitude touring is to bring some BC powders. Dissolve in your water bottle and you’ve got a perfect preventative - hydration plus aspirin to thin blood plus caffeine to vasodilate. Of course, you say “geezer” so check with your doctor to make sure this is ok for you. 

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Last year my cruise ended in lima. I wanted to do Machu Picchu, but I only had three days available before I had to fly home. I received very good advice that three days was not enough time to acclimate to the altitude. Five days minimum I was told. Instead, I did a private tour to southern Peru and had a great time. If that’s of any interest to you, I can send you my southern Peru write up and tour guide contact. My email is in my signature line. 

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We did it post-cruise in 2017 in 4 days, 3 nights. Not ideal, but it worked out for us.


We flew to Cusco on the first day and indeed, altitude difference hits you hard, but this is personal, no way of predicting how one will react, old, young, trained, not trained....


We took a hand of coco leaves at the airport, which you can chew on or make tea of, to relieve altitude difficulties, but had some trouble in the high part of our arrival tour, which took as even higher, above Cusco!


Second, full day, we did the Sacred Valley, Pisac, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo and train to Aguas Calientes.


Third day we did Machu Picchu and train back to Poroy and tranfer back to hotel in Cusco


Fourth day return flight to Lima.


All doable, but no way of telling upfront how one will cope with the altitude.


Only trouble we experienced was that there was no one to clear us for immigration when disembarking our cruise ship in Lima. Our passports were not stamped so no proof of entry in Peru. We were obviously not aware of this, until checking in our first hotel in Cusco, where they need proof of entry to take advantage of special tax advantages to pay for everything. Luckily, we had a guide that took care of that, but it was on omission on the part of our cruise company and we were not the only ones that had problems because of that.

The problem later on got a bit more serious when leaving Lima airport to fly back home, where again no proof of entry was in our passport and it took quite some time to get cleared by immigration to be allowed to leave Peru!


After long and thorough research, we chose a tour operator that did an excellent job and is still in business today.

Edited by Alphen
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