Packing Challenge: An Adventure Cruise to the Amazon

November 15, 2013 | By | 11 Comments

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! 
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    11 Responses to “Packing Challenge: An Adventure Cruise to the Amazon”

    1. Paul Hinds
      November 18th, 2013 @ 10:25 am

      As someone who lived in Bangkok for awhile and liked to get to the back country I would recommend the “Bug-off” clothes. These are lightweight and impregnated with a natural insectide. They do a great job in repelling mosquitoes, ticks and discouraging other blood suckers. I would also look at the sunblock rating of the clothes, there are some very light weight, yet effective, clothes out there. Further if you have a long run up time you can hit the websites and get the off season prices that can be up to 60% off.

    2. Paul Hinds
      November 18th, 2013 @ 10:30 am

      I do not know if I can quote company/websites here but for high deet repellant I recommend Hunting-Fishing stores like Cabelas and their website. Even if the big-box store does not have it these will. The Websites for Fishing and Hunting gear also often have the same products and even check

    3. Paul Hinds
      November 18th, 2013 @ 4:15 pm

      Two convenient websites for ‘Bug-off’ or ‘Bug-stop’ type clothes (men and women) would be
      Ex Offico (make their own) and LL Bean (their “bug shop” selection. I bought some of these for my mother in NW Wisconsin where the mosquitoes carry off small children and she loves them.

    4. Tom H
      November 23rd, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

      Hi Carolyn, this is the kind of trip I’d like to plan with my family for May/June 2014. I’d love to connect with you when you return to get your results and recommendations.


    5. Carolyn Spencer Brown
      November 26th, 2013 @ 7:15 am

      Hi, Paul, thanks for the great tips. Wish I’d seen ’em before I left! I heartily endorse your suggestions (a fellow passenger had scored some excellent bug repellent on LL Bean and it never occurred to me to even look there).

      The big mistake I made was I waited until the last minute to “go shopping” and I won’t do that again.

      A colleague had suggested I wait and buy repellent in Peru and I forgive her :) — in Peru all they had was the weak stuff.

      One other thing that’s worth noting beyond the clothes: There was no shop on board to buy things you forgot and certainly there were no shops anywhere we went in the Amazon River basin but the passengers and crew would pitch in generously if you forgot something. One gave me a healthy supply of Benadryl when I got a nasty cold; a crew member fixed my eyeglasses when one of the stems literally fell off! Great experience all around (stay tuned for a blog, and some Facebook posts with photos). Thanks for your tips….


    6. Carolyn Spencer Brown
      November 26th, 2013 @ 7:16 am

      Hi, Tom H. I’m dropping you a note now — happy to advise. You should definitely go :)


    7. Carla Lowrey
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 7:11 pm

      We just got back from a cruise on La Estrella, and I can’t say enough good things about it. The boat was comfortable, the naturalist guides amazingly knowledgeable, the organization flawless. I highly recommend this cruise into the jungle.

    8. Linda English
      September 26th, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

      Our multi-generation family is going on a cruise to the Galapagos Islands in 2015. Where do we purchase light weight adventure clothing? One of us may need a 1 0r 2X size.

      What can one purchase on board? We will be on the Expedition.

    9. Carolyn Spencer Brown
      September 26th, 2014 @ 5:10 pm

      Hi, Linda — first, that sounds like an awesome trip. Second, I would buy everything ahead of time. Don’t wait until you get there…there’s not a lot of shops, merchandise, etc. I forgot to pack tube socks and mosquito repellant for my cruise and I spent a day walking around Lima trying to find ’em. And that was a big city!

      I did well at LL Bean, bought everything online. Others like REI. And a third suggestion: Often cruise lines will post links to suggested suppliers/retailers on their own websites.

      Hope that helps.


    10. Terry Miles
      April 16th, 2015 @ 7:30 pm

      Carolyn, we board La Estrella on the 24th. It will be my second tour of this river area, but not to this level of luxury. Thanks for the insight. I feel prepared, except, what to wear on the boat for meals and leisure time?


      Terry (I’m a she!)

    11. Carolyn Spencer Brown
      April 17th, 2015 @ 1:19 pm

      Hi, Terry, you have an exciting adventure ahead of you. Evenings were casual — the lounge is outside, the dining room is inside and airconditioned. Shorts are okay for daytime, people wore slacks at night, but still, very ultra-casual.

      Hope you’ll write a review of the trip when you get back for our community!

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