Both embarkation and disembarkation for our cruise were from Iquitos where we were welcomed at the airport by one of our guides, taken to lunch at a local restaurant, then transferred by skiff to the Aqua Amazon. After boarding our luggage was delivered to our suites promptly and we had a required introduction to the ship and its safety procedures. We had time to unpack before our first dinner and the cruise director visited our suite to see if we had any questions and to make sure everything was as it should be.
The Aria is a small 16-suite ship, all with large picture windows for viewing the river and surroundings. We had a suite on the second floor which I believe provided a better view. The cabins were spacious and well appointed and provided ample room to store our belongings. Beds were very comfortable. The bathrooms were large for a ship. Everything worked and the room was spotless. Since the suites were air-conditioned and the outside was much warmer, an area that was not air-conditioned was provided to keep cameras and binoculars so they wouldn't fog up when we went out on excursions. I thought this was a very thoughtful touch!
There were many wonderful things about our trip down the Amazon and the ship itself but I'll focus on a couple. First of all, the guides (and other crew members) were outstanding! Our 4 guides were knowledgeable, professional, and fun to be with. Most if not all grew up in the small villages along the Amazon and had a deep love of and respect for the river, the flora and fauna, and the local people. We had an opportunity to go out in the skiffs with each of them and this made the excursions all the more interesting. Typically we went out on the river after breakfast, returned to the ship for lunch, and went out again in the late afternoon and returned in time for dinner. Sometimes there were optional early morning excursions as well and one time we went out before breakfast and had a special breakfast delivered to our skiffs. Quite a remarkable feat actually. Passengers were loaded into 4 comfortable skiffs so everyone had a view seat and guides made a real effort to make sure everyone could see whatever we discovered before moving on. By the end of the first or second day, the guides had learned our names. I think there's something particularly nice about being addressed by name! In addition to the guides, other crew members were equally professional and helpful. All crew members seemed to work together to assure that their guests had an amazing trip.
The food was very good—varied and creative. I was pleased that we had an opportunity to enjoy a variety of local foods as well as some things that were perhaps more familiar to us. Part of travel is experiencing the local culture and food is certainly an important element. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style and there was always a variety of choices. Dinner was served "family style" and while there was only one main course there were a number of side dishes to choose from. Since tables were small--generally for 4--this family style approach worked well. As guests seated themselves for dinner, one of the dining room staff brought printed menus with the evening's fare and asked if anyone needed a substitution. House wine and local beer were complimentary and were served at both lunch and dinner (and at the bar at other times). I thought the food was excellent and I definitely enjoyed the variety that was provided. As a bonus, during the week our chef led two cooking demonstrations as did the bartender with special drinks. I really enjoyed this interaction with the other crew members. There was a very nice lounge on the top floor of the ship which included a bar. This was where various talks were given by the crew--and a little special entertainment by them as well.
Of course the Amazon and its tributaries were the main attraction! It was high-water season so we were able to navigate by boat pretty much everywhere. We saw many birds and some other critters--lots of beautiful scenery--and interesting villages. We were lucky with the weather and experienced little rain but each skiff was equipped with some serious ponchos just in case. We did have one sudden but brief downpour and were glad for a poncho! I was expecting mosquitos but we really had very few. We visited two villages durning the week and took two jungle walks. During the low-water season more time would be spent on land.
All and all, it was a wonderful, memorable trip. If you're contemplating an Amazon River cruise, I'd highly recommend booking on the Aria Amazon!