Dappled light filters through soaring trees and glints off the black water so reflective its surface perfectly mirrors the puffy clouds and verdant jungle surrounding you. Your skiff cuts through plants gently floating on the river’s surface as wind whips at your hair, creating what the guides call “natural air conditioning” – a welcome reprieve from the sticky humidity.
Suddenly your guide stops the skiff and excitedly points out a troop of Squirrel monkeys dangling from the branches like ornaments. You watch them leap from limb to limb through the provided binoculars before catching a glimpse of the turquoise tail of a macaw soaring across the sky like a party streamer.
Later in the day your small group is lucky enough to spot pink and gray river dolphins playing in a pocket of calm water. Your skiff pulls up to the side of a small cruise ship and you disembark and head to the upper deck to continue soaking in panoramic views of your epic surroundings and a take in a fiery sunset while sipping a refreshing drink.
For dinner you savor a multi-course meal that highlights the local Amazonian ingredients, creating a burst of distinctive flavors with every bite.
Afterwards, you step out onto the deck for some stargazing. Your ship is alone in the rainforest and the lack of natural light means you can see the Milky Way’s spiral pattern draped across the sky as you listen to the natural jungle symphony. Finally, you climb into your sumptuous sheets and are gently rocked to sleep as the river carries you towards the next day’s escapades.
Welcome to a day aboard Aqua Expedition’s Aria Amazon. This luxury river cruise is the bucket list family trip of your dreams.
Think of the Aria Amazon as a water safari. Instead of game drives, your family will board small skiffs twice a day (with the option to add a third early morning outing) and head off in search of wildlife and adventure. The smaller boats mean you can traverse through quieter tributaries and more densely jungled areas. Of course, the wildlife you encounter changes from day to day, but everything from monkeys to eagles to sloths are frequently spotted. Highlights on our trip included fishing for piranhas and spotting the glowing eyes of caimans on a night excursion, going for a swim in a safe part of the Amazon river (talk about a bucket list item!), and encountering a family with a baby sloth as a pet on a trip into one of the river villages.
When it comes to the ship itself, take all your preconceived notions about cramped cruise cabins and toss them aside. The exceptionally spacious suites on this ship feature plenty of room for a king bed and couch or two double beds. Interconnecting rooms give families even more room, plus the privacy of having a door between the adults and the children. Throughout this gorgeously designed ship it’s clear what the priority is: the views! With just 16 rooms in total, every single cabin features floor-to-ceiling windows with river views. Lying in bed each morning and watching the rainforest and wildlife float by was a delight. The upper deck also offers 360-degree views whether you’re outside enjoying the wraparound deck or inside lounging on one of the celadon green couches by the bar. The lounge area also has games that the kids can enjoy if they aren’t already tuckered out from the excitement of the day’s outings.
For foodies, dining aboard the Aria Amazon just might be worth the trip alone. World-renowned chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino oversees the creation of the menu. Schiaffino is known for being among the very first culinarians in the country to put traditional Peruvian cuisine and jungle flavors on the map. The daily menus elevate unlikely ingredients into unforgettable dishes you won’t find anywhere else (except perhaps at Schiaffino’s restaurant in Lima, Amaz, which can be found on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list). Think chicken stewed in palm fruit, coca leaf cookies, fresh corn cakes with shrimp and coconut tapioca with mango sorbet. The chefs onboard are also happy to accommodate any allergies or sensitivities and can change up the recipes, so littler and pickier eaters will find be happy too.
While every aspect of the cruise is exceptional, what truly takes this vacation from incredible to absolutely unforgettable is the crew. By the end of the first night everyone had already learned our names and our favorite drink orders. The attentive and friendly staff constantly checked in to make sure we had everything we needed and accommodated our every whim. The knowledgeable guides took the excursions to the next level. No question we had about the animals, the landscape or the wildlife went unanswered. Most of the guides grew up in the nearby villages so they know the area inside and out and excitedly impart their wisdom in easy-to-understand takeaways. On our last evening excursion, the guides surprised us all by stopping our skiff in the middle of a gorgeous clearing for a sunset champagne toast complete with snacks. Once back aboard the ship, the festivities continued with a curated slideshow of the all the photos of us the guides had taken throughout the week and a special dance performance by the crew that had everyone in tears both from laughter and the impending nostalgia that comes when the end of a great trip is near.
Exploring the Amazon jungle and all the magic it has to offer is a once-in-a-lifetime family experience (and one that comes with serious bragging rights!) and there is no better way to immerse yourself in these unparalleled landscapes. The wonders you’ll encounter are seemingly never ending and each day you’ll find yourself declaring over and over that surely nothing could top what you’re experiencing right now.
My advice? If you only take one trip this year, make it this one.
How to cruise the Amazon
How to Get There
Fly to Lima. From there it’s a quick flight to Iquitos, where your guides will meet you and whisk you away to the ship.
Best for what ages
Children must be at least 7 years old. Regular and child-size life vests are given out for all excursions in the skiffs.
When to Go
There is no bad time to take this cruise, but there are two distinct seasons. Wet seasons brings higher water and more opportunities for exploration in the skiffs, while dry season allows for more treks on-foot into the jungle.