Under normal circumstances, one would be hard pressed to find any commonality between intrepid exploration of the Amazon, luxury cruising, and culinary creativity. Then again, cruising with Aqua Expeditions is anything but common. Scheduling a 4-night sailing out of Iquitos, Peru, on the Aria Amazon proved to be a bona fide bonanza: treated as royally as kings of the Amazon jungle and, by an enormous stroke of luck, sailing on what happened to be one of the company’s signature hosted theme cruises.
Aqua Expeditions’ Focus on Food
Hosted by world-renowned chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, this food fest was more than enough to awaken anyone’s sedentary taste buds. Schiaffino is the highly regarded proprietor of Lima’s acclaimed Amaz and Malabar restaurants, both listed in the prestigious Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017.
Personal interaction with the chef encompassed cooking demonstrations, pisco and chocolate tastings, discussions on sustainability initiatives as well as question-and-answer sessions. Throughout the cruise, Schiaffino concocted dishes spiced by indigenous Amazonian ingredients and seasoned with refined references to the revered cuisine of cosmopolitan Lima. His inspiring talent and tireless approach to Peruvian cuisine has earned him the position of executive chef of the vessel, with his creative presentations offered on every Aria Amazon cruise.
Infused with the ancestral traditions, color, and aromas of the region, the menu selections read like a hallucinatory gastronomic glossary: solterito salad with Inca corn and Andean cilantro, causa with freshwater shrimp escabeche, yucca gnocchi, grilled paiche with chorizo sauce and snake-fruit purée. Complemented by a selection of regional wines, the ingenious blend of food and drink initiates a union between world cultures. While referring to the dishes as delicious might be implied, labeling them as exotic is a profound understatement.
Cruising the Amazon
However, this is only a delightful bonus for an Aqua Expeditions cruise. The beating heart of the experience comes from innovative itineraries and exceptional cruise amenities. The prodigious comfort of oversized suites is unexpected for an expeditionary river vessel and the company’s hallmark floor-to-ceiling windows provide panoramic views of the passing jungle. The boutique-styled dining room more resembles an upscale bistro than a ship’s restaurant, and the elegantly accessorized lounge serves as a splendid rendezvous for congenial conversations. Out on deck, a spacious canopied area features a Jacuzzi, and chaise-lounge seating facilitates unrivaled Amazonian stargazing for night owls.
Aesthetically, the 32-passenger Aria Amazon reveals an image of a chic floating retreat serving as a base for daily incursions into the remote Amazonian jungle. Led by experienced naturalists aboard the company’s exclusively designed skiffs, excursions are complimentary and run the gamut of flora-and-fauna viewing, cultural exposés, and active sport experiences.
The tributary and backwater explorations delve into the remote homes of rare and endemic wildlife with no more than eight persons per guide.
To bolster the appeal of the company’s themed-cruise programs, they’ve partnered with A-list celebrities to host cruises covering a variety of special interests. In addition to Schiaffino’s scheduled sailings, world-renowned naturalist and….
By Steve Leland
Photo: Aqua Expeditions