Delfin Amazon Cruises
By the time I’d stroked the thick, fuzzy abdomen of a wild tarantula in a local tracker’s hands in the jungle, I, as well as my group, knew many travel firsts would be achieved in three days. After all, it’s not the norm to fish for piranhas in a creek, have mischievous capuchins leap upon your group’s skiff as they help themselves to your banana supply, or encounter the indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon — fishing, playing, living — and witness their modern adaptations. But there was no retreating to some sweltering, tatty tent amongst creatures that hiss in order to experience this — but instead onto the Delfin II, a sleek, all-suite riverboat for travelers who prefer not to completely “rough it” in the world’s most spectacular rainforest region.
Adventurers, gourmands, and eco-travelers are all in good hands with Peru-based Delfin Amazon Cruises while traversing the malaria-free Upper Amazon tributaries with two luxury vessels: the intimate four-suite Delfin I and the 14-suite Delfin II. The suites on both boats, clad in tanned local woods, feature beds with 100% Peruvian pima cotton, modern fixtures, and generous panoramic windows which reveal sights of pink river dolphins swimming past your cabin. If on the Delfin II, you likely won’t spend much time in your suite given the elaborate Peruvian three-course lunches and dinners in the dining room, plentiful excursions, and opportunities to sip pisco with your sociable cruisemates on the open deck. You’ll be further occupied trying out Delfin II’s latest additions, which include an enclosed deck lounge (a welcome respite from the flying insects) and a small spa and gym space.
Local and enthused expert naturalists will have you up bright and early to seize the day for multiple excursions, and though it might be tempting to skip one to sleep in…take all of them. Doing so will preclude any regrets of missing the flocks of blue-and-yellow macaws and kingfishers soaring overhead; watching your guide “tackle” five-foot-long white caimans (crocodiles) on a night trek; or your chance to dip more than your toes into a lagoon full of frolicking dolphins. In one of the world’s most biologically diverse regions, experiencing the wildlife on this South American safari often left me and my cruisemates speechless.
The plentiful “first time” opportunities on the cruise also extend to Delfin’s dining program, where guests are given the rare chance to sample the fresh bounty of the Peruvian Amazon. I’ve accrued a deep fondness for the fruit punch-like nectar of the camu camu, a sour berry exclusively grown in the region now sold as a pricey health product in the U.S., as well as the delicate flesh of the doncella fish, grilled inside large bijao leaves and laden with diced tomatoes and onions. Beyond mealtimes, the main chef and his team provide informative (and lip-smacking) exotic fruit tastings and a chance to take center stage and prepare a popular regional dish among fellow passengers.
Social responsibility is a marked priority for the cruise line, best demonstrated on a final day visit to Puerto Miguel, an impoverished-yet-spirited 400-person village of indigenous Amazonians. Guests are encouraged to pack for-donation supplies for a visit to the village’s sole grade school — and you’ll never forget the little ones’ toothy smiles and the warm welcome of the staff and teachers. Vibrant woven crafts made by the community’s women are available both in the village and on the Delfin II (all proceeds go to the school), so although you’re lapping in luxury onboard and ticking off that Amazonian bucket list, you can still make a difference.
Be on the lookout for a special off-menu experience: On a clear night after an exquisite dinner, make your way to the open front deck and gaze under an unimpeded, glittering dome of stars.
Rates for 2016 Delfin II Cruises start at $3,200 per person for 4 days/3 nights, including transfers, all meals, and select beverages.
You’ll fly into the bustling jungle city of Iquitos and transfer in a private coach to Delfin’s embarkation port in Nauta, where the sleek, three-story river vessel awaits. After cruise orientation, you’ll get a preview of Delfin’s culinary prowess on your first dinner acclimate to your suite before an exhilarating, action-packed three days in the Amazon.