We were on the Aria Amazon with a university alumni travel program, so everyone on the boat was with our group. I mention this mostly because the excursions and day-to-day activities were enhanced by knowing everyone. People without an interest in getting to know the other passengers might find the social nature of these cruises a bit daunting.
We arrived in Iquitos by plane from Lima--and returned that way. Then by bus to and from the Aria Amazon upon embarkation and disembarkation...
We were all adults--no kids. I believe the Aria does not take children under 7, and I can see why: the nature of the daily excursions would be less interesting for younger people.
To continue: the boat. What can I say...a beautiful vessel. Some reviewers mentioned noise at night while traveling, but we did not find this to be the case at all. We were on the 2nd deck, so I asked people on the 1st deck if the engine noise disrupted sleep, and no one had a problem. So maybe other reviewers were really light sleepers?
All suites are the same. Floor to ceiling windows, light and bright. Sizable rooms with enormous and super comfy beds. A/C in rooms is individually controlled. Good toilet/shower/sink set up to minimize maneuvering for using the bathroom.
Public rooms were a good-sized bar area on the top deck and the restaurant. The staff is justifiably proud of its cuisine, which is the best of Peruvian food (the Aria line was started by a chef). Seafood fans are especially fortunate on this cruise.
There were spa facilities and services on the Aria, but I did not use them.
The Peruvian Amazon region is more bio-diverse (or so I hear) than its counterparts in other countries, so soak it in, because it's under continual environmental threat. The guides are the BEST. They knew were to find wildlife, and we pretty much saw it all--monkeys, abundant birdlife, caiman, pink dolphins, piranha, and yes, an anaconda. All excursions were made on flat-bottomed boats with powerful outboard motors (5-6 boats fit the group). About the anaconda: I'm snake phobic, but managed to cower in the back of the excursion boat while others posed with an anaconda that the guides found. One excursion was a trek in the rainforest, which I skipped--it was too hot and humid for the activity for me; all other adventures were on the water.
Our group made one stop at a local village to visit the school and with a guide interpreting we were able to visit one of the residents in his home. The Amazon's social mission is to help the indigenous people in the area, so passengers were encouraged to purchase from a pre-existing stock of school supplies and fishing gear to hand over to the village teacher, who then distributed donations among the children and parents. This stop was probably one of the most meaningful events of the cruise--albeit a sobering one.
Before returning to Lima, we had a small side trip to a manatee rescue center. Fun--amazing animals, and very threatened.
The entire staff on the ship was professional, friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. They made it a point to learn everyone's name and offer personal service.
1. Insects. Of course. It's the Amazon. Wear Permathen-treated clothing and wear insect repellent, and you should be fine. The Aria supplies insect repellent as you get into and out of expedition craft, but you will probably want to bring your own.
2. Water. Don't drink out of the tap and take care with brushing teeth, etc. The Aria supplies everyone with a very nice aluminum water bottle which can be refilled from a drinking water station on the vessel. This avoids having to use plastic bottles.
3. To be honest, just about everyone in our group got turista at some point, so come prepared with Lomatil or something similar. We also had a prescription for an antibiotic to be used in case of diarrhea, and did use it when we had stomach problems. People prone to stomach distress may wish to avoid some vegetables or fruits served only after washing. There is an EMT on board for passengers who have other symptoms. Luckily no one in our group was out of commission for long.
4. Of course it's hot and sticky, but the Aria is fully air conditioned. When on excursions, once the expedition boats got moving during our day-trips, the heat was less oppressive. I am a person who HATES heat and humidity more than most, but I managed. You will probably want to wear a hat when outside, as the sun is quite strong.
5. There is no wifi. Unplug.
All in all, the Aria was just about the best way to see the Peruvian Amazon.