Until recently, heading up the Amazon River was only something you did if you had a very impressive amount of explorative spirit. Today, however, you can explore the depths of the uncharted river from the comfort of a king-size bed behind panoramic windows while sipping a piña colada. Times have changed. There are now tons of cruises that lead travelers through the towering canopies of the Amazon to spot river dolphin, manatees, anacondas, oversized otters, jungle sloths, howler monkeys, and more. If the adventurer in you is calling and you’re due for a South American expedition, we highly recommend an Amazon river cruise. Here are the best of the bunch.
The Zafiro, which explores the Peruvian section of the Amazon, is one of the premier luxury cruises in the industry. Aboard the Zafiro, the focus is on comfort and relaxation. Each room comes with a large king-size bed, huge showers, and perhaps the best part of the Zafiro riverboat — 180-degree floor-to-ceiling windows that give you excellent panoramic views of the surrounding rainforest canopy and Amazonian flora and fauna.
As far as common areas go, feel free to treat yourself to the indoor lounge, the outdoor jacuzzi, the observation deck, the exercise room, and the massage room. With 19 suites on the ship, it’s small enough to indulge in the excellent, pampering service. The Zafiro has a few options for itineraries including a four-day option, a five-day option, and an eight-day option that heads up the river to the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. Also, if you’re considering celebrating your wedding with a cruise, check out Honeymoon Cruises to Celebrate Tying the Knot.
Delfin I, II, or III
If you’re looking for intimacy on aboard your journey, the Delfin I is the option for you. With only four oversized suites, it can hardly be considered a ‘cruise’ ship. They each come with their own private patio, a private whirlpool jacuzzi, climate control, and a communication system to have your needs met at any moment.
The Delfin II and III are a bit larger — 14 and 22 suites respectively — but they still have the same standards for comfort. You can choose between three-night and four-night itineraries with Delfin, with the smaller riverboats being more expensive than the larger ones.
Also in the Peruvian section of the Amazon, the Aria is an excellent option for adventure travelers. On the boat, you’ll find mountain bikes and kayaks free to use out on the land-based adventures. Led by expert naturalists, these little land trips are super fun and offer even more insight into the surrounding Amazonian ecosystems.
The Aria is also a great option for foodies with top-rated culinary options onboard. Dive into exotic local Amazonian ingredients and pair them with local wines and beers. After dinner, cruise back to your room and gaze out the massive floor-to-ceiling windows from the comfort of your king-sized bed. Digital nomads beware: there is no WiFi onboard as they focus on detaching yourself from the outside world.
In 2016, Anakonda won the award for the best luxury boutique, and it’s currently the only one that winds its way through the Ecuadorian Amazon. For a more undiscovered portion of the river with all kinds of animals, consider the Anakonda. Leaving from Quito, the four, five, and eight-day voyages take travelers through the Yasuní National Park filled with exotic turtles, parrots, otters, and the wonderful indigenous people of the Oriente tribe. On your way back to civilization, discover Cuenca, Ecuador: Things to do on a Budget.
Beginning in the Brazilian city of Manaus, the Iberostar is more of a corporate economic option for the travelers who are OK with skimping on plush amenities. The boat holds 148 passengers and resembles more of a traditional cruise ship than the other chic riverboat options above. But for under a thousand dollars (others options are in the two or three thousand dollar range), it’s a good choice for those with a tighter budget. The Iberostar is a great pick for kids, with tons of things to keep them amused like nightly entertainment, movie nights, concerts, and a disco room.
A cruise with Seabourn is more of a wild, educational excursion rather than a traditional cruise. Instead of a five-star hotel on the water, you work your way up the Amazon in inflated rafts with expert guides to learn about how the rise and fall of the river coincides with the livelihood of the surrounding ecosystems. Hop off your raft into an even smaller dugout canoe and take pictures of the birds, howler monkeys, and sloths beneath the rainforest canopy (and if you’re lucky, river dolphin). For more ideas on planning educational, sustainable travel itineraries, check out What is Ecotourism? The Sustainability Lowdown.