Even before I had taken the bus I had been told the following things about it:
-it has two drivers that switch after 4hrs of driving
-it's tracked by GPS so that the company knows if any bus veers off course
After weeks of anticipation we finally got to take our first Cruz del Sur (CDS) bus from Tacna to Arequipa!
First, it was a smooth buying experience online. Which is actually a big deal because e-commerce is a real pain in South America. Websites don't work (ex. trying to buy a train ticket in Bolivia and you couldn't actually click on the calendar to pick your date) and most times your credit card doesn't go through (ex. trying to buy our train tickets to Machu Pichu the other day). However, CDS's website was easy and the transaction went through just fine.
We got to the bus station in Tacna and CDS had a neat office with a friendly staff person to great us. Our tickets were printed with no problem, and we were handed off to the baggage guy. He checked our tickets, and then gave us receipts for our luggage. Then we had a bit of time to kill before our bus so we got some lunch and waited around.
After waiting around outside, our bus was finally ready to board about 20 minutes prior to scheduled departure. The CDS staff had set up a little ticket checking station outside next to the bus, a security desk for bag checks and a video camera to record to whole thing. We had our tickets checked, our bags looked through, and were scanned by portable metal detector. Then we went in and into our VIP area downstairs in the bus.
The VIP seats were 12 large leather lazyboys. Each came complete with it's own blanket and pillow. The area was really welcoming. And look how much the seats reclined!
After the rest of the passengers settled in, the bus driver came around with a video camera again to capture the faces of everyone in their seats for security, in case someone got on at night (though these buses go direct, unlike other buses and this isn't a problem). Then we were off, and on time! I can't tell you how great it was to leave on time - we usually left 30-60 minutes late in Bolivia, we usually left 30 minutes late in Argentina, the buses were really good in Chile, but Peru's no Chile, so it was really impressive.
Anyways, we were underway, and I won't bore you with all the details except to mention some highlights:
-there was a stewardess!! she came around and brought drinks, and halfway she brought a packaged sandwhich and snack
-they showed 3 movies (it was a 7 hr bus ride) but they were all quiet so you could sleep if you wanted to
-there was wifi (though it didn't work for me)
-the bathroom was clean
In the end, lets compare one of the better bus companies in the states, Greyhound, to Cruz del Sur:
Greyhound: tickets from Boston to DC (about the same distance as Tacna to Arequipa) are $40
Cruz del Sur: the ticket was $15
G: you don't have reserved seats, so you have to show up early and wait in line hoping there'll be space
CDS: you have a reserved seat
G: the seats are fabric and recline maybe 15-30 degrees
CDS: the seats are leather and large and recline 50 degrees
G: there is one driver (hope he doesn't get sleepy)
CDS: there are at least 2, but for the really long trips there can be 3
G: snacks? you want what?
CDS: snacks and drinks on every trip, and for longer trips you get a meal too
G: movie? just read a book
CDS: 2-3 movies, usually in English with Spanish subtitles
G: "trust us, you'll be fine"
CDS: we track the bus with GPS to make sure you're fine
Anyways, you get the picture. So.... who wants to open a Cruz del Sur-esque bus company in the states?