Preparing for my latest voyage, the packing checklist looks a lot like the usual, at least on the surface. New shoes? Absolutely. A few new items of clothing? Why not. Camera, raincoat, Kindle, are also among the staples I lug around from cruise to cruise.
But this is no “normal” voyage. On this trip — my first-ever soft adventure cruise — I’m traveling on International Expeditions’ 31-passenger La Estrella Amazonica down the Peruvian Amazon, the mighty river’s more exotic and more remote section And while pictures show the line’s new Amazonica as quite comfortable (nice touch – balconies with every cabin!) the places we’ll be visiting in the jungle might not be so forgiving.
For someone whose cruise experience has focused on mainstream, luxury and European river lines, the otherworldly adventure of this trip began with the IE-recommended packing list.
Among the items: “strong” insect repellant, insect-bite relief products, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, tissue packs (for off-the-ship toilets), sunburn relief, and medication for diarrhea, altitude sickness and motion sickness. There was also a visit to the doctor for a prescription for malaria pills, just in case, and the records were checked to make sure the Hepatitis A shot was up-to-date.
As far as clothes go, a wide-brimmed straw hat came “highly recommended” (it’s actually kind of cute). I splurged on Skechers walking shoes and some not-so-flattering khaki cargo pants from L.L.Bean that I’m told will be a godsend (because they dry quickly). Because of insects, clothing in dark shades is highly discouraged — a challenge right there since my urban travel wardrobe revolves around black…everything. A forage to the back of the closet yielded treasures like white linen, long-sleeved blouses (turns out I had three that were virtually identical!)
The niftiest tip on the list? On this cruise, a seven night roundtrip from Peru’s Iquitos, we will visit a local school, and passengers are encouraged to pick up supplies to donate. Tucked into the pile are Crayola markers, a box of pens, folders, and notebooks.
It’s all much different from my last two journeys on the Amazon, both on mainstream lines, where the river seemed more like a mere backdrop than the main event. At some stops on the Manaus-Rio de Janeiro itinerary, my tour group was larger than the total number of passengers that I’ll have on this expedition cruise. I’m hoping for a much more authentic feel (even if it does sound a little scary).
The packing part of this adventure isn’t over yet. Even as I head to the airport for my flight to Lima, where I’ll meet up with fellow passengers before heading to the boat, I’m keenly aware of the one item I’ve failed to procure. Turns out piranhas, purring monkeys and bizarre puss caterpillars are not to be feared; The real predator on the Peruvian Amazon is the mighty skeeter, due to dengue fever (which doesn’t have a vaccine). Super-strong insect repellant is nowhere to be found in central New Jersey, where freezing temperatures mean there’s not a mosquito in sight and shops aren’t currently stocking the stuff.
I’m not too worried. An inveterate travel shopper, the need to stock up on just a few more essential supplies (I also forgot to buy the recommended tube socks, which protect ankles from chiggers), just gives me an excuse to prowl around Lima’s shops before our group heads to the boat.
Got any questions for me? I’ll be reporting back on the ship when I get back so stay tuned for updates!