Expert Review: Amazon Discovery Luxury Cruise
| Expert Advice
This November, I had the wonderful experience of cruising aboard Amazon Discovery, on one of its very first journeys. We traveled the 7-Day itinerary, taking us on a return trip from Iquitos to the Pacaya Samiria Reserve. This itinerary is a nice balance of skiff and land excursions, as well as visits to local communities, and wildlife rescue centers.
Amazon Discovery Cruise Itinerary
The itinerary began upon arrival at the Iquitos Airport, where the cruise team was waiting to give us a warm welcome to the Amazon. We took a short trip, in an air-conditioned van, to the Manatee Rescue Center, where we had the chance to meet these gentle giants up close. Within a half hour of leaving the airport, we were feeding baby manatees, as they were being rehabilitated and prepared for re-introduction. This was an adorable and impactful introduction to the Amazon. We then made our way to the privately owned port, where skiffs were waiting to whisk us away to our home for the next seven days.
Upon boarding, we were shown to our suite, where our luggage was waiting. After taking a little time to unpack and refresh, we met the rest of our cruise mates in the upper deck lounge for a safety briefing and formal introduction to our guides and cruise director. We spent a moment watching the passing sunset with fresh juices in hand, before heading to the dining room for our first of many gourmet dining experiences. The white glove service, free flowing wine, and carefully prepared Amazonian delicacies left everyone with smiling conversations, as we met some of our fellow travelers, discussing our coming adventures. After dinner, some made their way to their suites, and others stepped upstairs to the bar for a nightcap. We slept well in our comfortably appointed suite, excited for the mornings first excursion.
The second day started with an elaborate breakfast buffet, with regional and international flavors. We then boarded our skiffs, and ventured up a small tributary. We saw many species of colorful birds, sleeping bats, and even spotted a three toed sloth high up in a riverside tree. At the furthest point in our excursion we saw a pack of small monkeys jumping from tree to tree, an amazing sight to behold in the wild. After arriving back on board, we had time for a quick rest and refresh, before gathering for a map orientation in the lounge. We then had a delicious lunch, with our choice of chicken, beef, or local fish. Each meal had these choices for a protein, and for the rest of the trip we made this selection at the preceding meal. After another skiff excursion in the afternoon, we met back onboard for a full crew introduction before dinner. At night, there was live music in the upper deck bar and lounge, where the crew enthusiastically played and sang their local rhythms. Before long, passengers and crew members alike were dancing through the lounge, with a smile on every face.
On the third day, we visited San Francisco, a local community on the bank of the Amazon. The villagers welcomed us in with waving hands and bright faces. After visiting a few homes, and seeing how the locals live, we were presented with a native dance by young boys and girls in traditional dress. In the afternoon, we went out for a short jungle walk. A local villager came with us, and would venture off the trail to bring us some of the hard to find creatures of the rainforest. Thanks to him, we were able come face to face with a tarantula, red poison dart frog, red tailed boa, and three toed sloth. The walk had a few ups and downs, but the trail had railings and stairs, so accessibility wasn’t a problem. Back on board, we had time to rest before meeting at the bar for a Pisco Sour demonstration, followed by yet another fabulous meal.
The fourth day started with a skiff exploration, which included time for a refreshing swim! This was a highlight for most, as pink dolphins were swimming just 10 meters from our group. In the afternoon, we gathered in the lounge for a documentary film on the Amazon, before setting off on a skiff excursion. This time we were in search of the infamous piranha. Every one of us caught a few of these sharp toothed terrors, throwing most back to the river, keeping only the largest for the chefs back on board. The spine filled meat of this fish has a nice texture, and those who dared to take a bite, were pleasantly surprised. As we put our fishing canes aside, the sun had set and darkness was setting in. The guides grabbed their high powered spot lights, and we set off looking for caiman. These alligators of the Amazon are notoriously hard to find, but our guides new just how to spot them, and brought us safely up to viewing distance.
On day five, we had a medicinal plant demonstration, where the local guides shared generations of plant wisdom with us. We also learned about the local fruits and how to prepare them. This was followed by a cooking class with the head chef, where we learned how to make Juanes, a delicious local favorite. In the afternoon, we visited a local community where we received blessings of good fortune from the village shaman. The ceremony was full of local music and dancing, imparting feelings of a warm welcome in this remote corner of the world. That night there was more music and dancing on the top deck, preparing us all for another comfortable nights rest.
Day six started with a nice breakfast, followed by a visit to the rambunctious Monkey Island. This island is run as a rescue center for monkeys who are victims of the black market and mistreatment. After learning about each species, we were able to walk among them, studying their movements, and taking dozens of photos. In the afternoon, we visited a local Bora community, where we learned how traditional homes were built and how clothing was made. That evening we had a meeting to go over the departure procedures, before taking skiffs to the floating restaurant Al Frio y Al Fuego. This floating restaurant was a special treat, as there is nothing quite like it anywhere in the world. After dinner, there was a spectacular show where crew members played live music and danced while fully dressed up as Amazonian animals. We all shared a last dance and laugh together, before returning to the Amazon Discovery for our last night.
On the last day, we placed our luggage outside our doors, and had one last sumptuous breakfast before disembarkation. We took the air-conditioned vans back to the airport, and the crew helped us to the check-in counters. This airport to airport service was timely and professional; it’s clear the crew is genuine in their service, they were truly gracious at every point.
Amazon Discovery Boat Specifications
Amazon Discovery is the largest cruise vessel in the Peruvian Amazon, with a 170ft steel hull and capacity for 43 guests in 22 cabins. These cabins are spread across 2 decks, with the upper deck providing 10 Flora Staterooms and 1 spacious Amazonia Suite, and the lower deck offering 9 double and 1 single Fauna Staterooms, as well as 2 larger Estuary Suites. Each cabin has a controllable air-conditioning unit, spacious bathroom with a hot water shower (Amazonia Suite has a bathtub), spa-quality toiletries, robes, slippers, a safe for valuables (large enough for a laptop), with 3x daily housekeeping. There is a comfortable dining room on the second deck, with panoramic windows on 3 sides, and a glass walled kitchen on the 4th side. The top deck offers an ample lounge, bar, spa, gym, plunge pool, sun deck, shaded outdoor seating, and the bridge (with open door policy).
Amazon Discovery Meals and Excursions
There are 3 meals served each day. Breakfast is an elaborate buffet, which helps you start the day off right, whatever your taste may be. Lunch and Dinner are served with a choice of beef tenderloin, chicken, or local fish, with wine included. Pisco cocktails and local beers are served complementary throughout the journey, with a full bar available for purchase. The excursions are well planned, and each activity serves to bolster the overall Amazon experience. By visiting multiple villages, you are left with a good sense of how these people experience life in this remote and important corner of the world. The various skiff excursions allow you to navigate many tributaries, with greater opportunity for rare wildlife spotting. These excursions are nicely complemented by visits to the manatee and monkey rescue centers, where dedicated teams care for these popular animals, which often fall victim to illegal hunting and black market trading. The 7-Day Amazon Discovery cruise gives a well rounded and focused Amazon experience for those looking for a real taste of the Amazon.