7 amazing Amazon river cruises
The wilds of the Amazon jungle turn over flora and fauna on an unimaginable scale, while fostering the indigenous cultures of some of the most isolated people on Earth. The Amazonian terrain—comprising a staggering third of the world’s tropical rain forest, as well as a third of its animal species—can be tough to tackle via land exploration alone, making it perfectly primed for adventure-minded cruises along the Amazon River, where the heat, humidity, and discomforts of the jungle can be met with considerable comfort.
Though the massive and mighty river—the world’s largest, in fact—spans eight South American nations, most larger vessels’ itineraries are limited to segments of the 1,000-mile stretch between the Brazilian ports of Manaus and Belém (the latter is set at the river’s mouth). Expedition vessels, smaller cruise ships, and riverboats, however, can also venture hundreds of miles further upriver to Iquitos, Peru, incorporating stops (usually made with skiffs) in more undeveloped regions of the Peruvian Amazon.
Cruise lines typically staff their ships with specialized guides to offer onboard and onshore commentary on the ecology and culture of the river and jungle. Most employ naturalists to help guests demystify the impossibly rich ecosystem and to assist in spotting the elusive wildlife, from slithering anacondas to razor-tooth piranhas, colorful toucans to playful pink dolphins, and lazy sloths to agile spider monkeys.
Guided shore excursions might include nature walks in the dense tropical rain forest, canoe tours of the turnoff tributaries, or fishing trips in search of piranha. The indigenous Amazonian tribes here deliver fascinating cultural encounters—you’ll likely tour at least a couple of remote villages to gain insight into the local way of life and may be treated to colorful cultural performances.
Here, a roundup of seven upcoming Amazonian voyages aboard premier cruise operators in the region, each sure to add an amazing element to your Amazon adventure.
1. International Expeditions Cruise to Little-Visited Peru on New Riverboat
Cruise Ship: 31-passenger La Estrella Amazonica
Ports of Call: Cruise includes transfers and pre- and post-hotel stays in Lima, Peru; excursions are made in small Peruvian villages and in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve
Cruise Length: 7 nights’ cruise, plus one night in a Lima hotel
Embarkation Dates: Select dates year-round
Book It: Rates from $4,398/person
2. Holiday Sailing on Princess from Florida to Brazil with Caribbean Stops
Cruise Ship: 680-passenger Pacific Princess
Ports of Call: Sail from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Manaus, Brazil, with stops in St. Maarten; St. Lucia; Trinidad and Tobago (Scarborough); French Guiana (Devil’s Island); and Brazil (Santarem, Boca da Valeria, Parintins)
Cruise Length: 14 nights
Embarkation Dates: Dec. 23, 2013; reverse itinerary on Jan. 6, 2014
Book It: Rates from $3,588/person
3. Lindblad Expeditions Hits Off-the-Path Peru on Intimate Upscale Ship
Cruise Ship: 28-passenger Delfin ll
Ports of Call: Cruise includes transfers and pre- and post-hotel stays in Lima, Peru; visit remote Peruvian villages and the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve
Cruise Length: 7 nights’ cruise, plus 2 nights in Lima hotel
Embarkation Dates: Select sailing dates year-round
Book It: Rates from $5,870/person