Taking the “roughing it” out of remote river explorations since 2008, Aqua Expeditions offers three-, four-, and seven-night itineraries that are the cruise equivalent of a luxury safari. With its Peru-based ship, the 32-passenger Aria Amazon, and its newer 40-passenger Aqua Mekong, based in Southeast Asia, the company takes passengers up close to the flora, fauna, and people along its routes. Knowledgeable onboard guides lead multiple daily excursions by motorized skiff to spy on sloths, pink river dolphins, and hundreds of bird species along Amazon tributaries, and to explore temples, markets, and villages of Vietnam and Cambodia. Nightly briefings over cocktails in the lounge create a casual camaraderie.
What We Love
The Staterooms: With the bed facing the floor-to-ceiling windows, the sleek, modern, and spacious accommodations offer terrific views of the passing scenery.
The Dining Experience: Using fresh local fish, fruits, and vegetables, the ships’ chefs turn out superb Amazonia- and Southeast-Asian-influenced breakfast and lunch buffets — capped off by à la carte dinners that are delightful epicurean discoveries.
Best Known For
Hands-On Nature Opportunities: Luxurious doesn’t mean adventure-free. During skiff excursions, guests can fish for piranha, hold a three-toed sloth at an animal rehabilitation center, and touch a tree python.
Giving Back to Locals: Aqua makes a point of asking passengers to bring school supplies and toiletries for local children, as each cruise stops at one of dozens of small villages along the tributaries it navigates.
Shop for Cruises
Who It's Best For
Couples: The indulgence of the Aqua experience makes it ideal for twosomes who find romance in cultural or back-to-nature experiences.
Nature-Loving Families: The ships were not designed with young children in mind, but kids seven and older are welcome, and interconnecting staterooms are available.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
The Scenery Doesn’t Change Much: On the Amazon itineraries, the rainforest vistas, while amazingly calming, can feel repetitious. And while it’s exciting to see pink dolphins and spider monkeys, anyone who isn’t an Animal Planet junkie might feel a bit bored toward the end of a week on board — the four-day itineraries are the perfect length.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.