Amazing Amazon: M.V. Aria
Adventure meets luxury aboard Aqua Expeditions’ M/V Aria.
By Gail Harrington
Anticipation takes over when you’re heading off to one of the world’s great wonders like the Amazon. In my case, expectations soared in Aqua Expeditions’ beautiful waterfront air-conditioned, outdoor lounge that’s perched on stilts beneath a tented canopy.
After an hour-and-a-half ride from the airport in Iquitos to the river town of Nauta, we refreshed quickly with frozen cinnamon-scented washcloths and chilled camu camu juice. Made from an antioxidant-rich Amazonian berry that contains more vitamin C than any fruit in the world, the refreshment was a welcome ritual we’d enjoy in the days ahead after every shore excursion. Skiffs were ready and the 147-foot-long M/V Aria waited for us offshore like a big tease, golden light beaming through the floor-to-ceiling glassed guest suites. I wasn’t the only one thinking, can we board now?
By the time I’d checked into my cabin on the second deck, it was dusk and those panoramic views I’d been imagining would have to wait until morning. We were on the move by dinnertime, sailing slowly at about 7 knots against a 2- to 3-knot current on the Marañón River, which becomes the Amazon when it meets the Ucayali. We left the twinkling lights of Nauta and a few tiny villages behind and headed into complete darkness.
I got my first jungle views at dawn the next morning without even crawling out of bed. Since I’d intentionally pushed back the curtains on the wall of glass, I awoke to a sight that couldn’t be traded for a little more shut-eye. Mesmerized by the stillness and thick, dark swath of trees silhouetted against a deep blue sky, I watched and waited for the sunrise. Inevitably, the morning sun lifted a veil of darkness to reveal the shades of vibrant green you’d expect to see in the largest tropical rainforest, which encompasses more than 2 million square miles. For me, getting such up-close glimpses of the Amazon was one of the best things about sailing on M/V Aria.
With a maximum of 32 guests and a crew of 24 who all grew up in small Amazonian villages, this riverboat has the vibe of a private yacht with plenty of intimate spots for kicking back. The upper deck, for example, features a sprawling glassed-in observation lounge with cream-colored linen sofas, plus the floor and ceiling constructed from rich-hued Brazilian jatoba wood. Flanked by a bar at one end and a wildlife reference library at the other, this casual lounge leads outside to a planked, shaded sundeck where you can lounge on a cushioned chaise and cool off in a cold-water Jacuzzi. Two small exercise rooms off the lounge have treadmills and elliptical machines for cardio with a view.
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