Thursday, 31 October 2013

Peruvian Amazon heating up with fresh investment

Peruvian Amazon heating up with fresh investment

By Michelle Baran
La Estrella Amazonica, the new vessel International Expeditions is using for Amazon River cruises in Peru.There's been a groundswell of renewed investment and interest on the Peruvian Amazon of late, with companies launching new ships, refurbishing old ones and introducing new Amazon itineraries.

Last month, International Expeditions launched the 31-passenger La Estrella Amazonica, replacing the 28-passenger La Amatista. La Estrella Amazonica is a newbuild with 15 outward-facing, 220-square-foot cabins featuring private balconies. The vessel also has a fitness center and a 1,000-square-foot observation deck.

International Expeditions designed La Estrella Amazonica in collaboration with Expediciones Amazonicas, the ship's owner.

Prices for 10-day Amazon cruises on La Estrella Amazonica start at $4,398 per person, including daily naturalist-guided excursions, most meals, transfers, precruise accommodations at Swissotel in Lima and tours of Lima and Iquitos in Peru.

La Estrella Amazonica joins another Amazon newbuild, the 32-passenger Queen Violet, which launched in May and is being chartered by G Adventures.

The Queen Violet has 16 outside-facing cabins, 10 with side-by-side twin beds and six with queen-size beds. The vessel also has an upper sun deck with a bar area for briefings as well as an area for lounging on deck chairs and hammocks.

Prices for G Adventures' nine-day Amazon trips, including a six-day cruise and transfer flights between Lima and Iquitos, start at $1,875 per person. See www.gadventures.com.

Avalon heads to the Amazon

In 2014, Avalon Waterways will begin offering Peruvian Amazon itineraries, having partnered with Aqua Expeditions to charter the 32-passenger Aria for an 11-day itinerary that includes a three-night cruise from Iquitos through the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve.

The Aria, which launched in 2011, is Aqua's second ship on the Peruvian Amazon. This year, Aqua Expeditions refurbished and relaunched its original 12-suite Amazon vessel, Aqua Amazon, which has been sailing the Peruvian Amazon since 2007.

The 130-foot Aqua Amazon (formerly the Aqua) received an updated interior. Suites have new wall coverings, bedside tables, lighting, bathrooms and curtains.

Both ships sail from Iquitos and navigate the Amazon waterways west of there for three-, four- and seven-night cruises.

The Avalon itinerary will begin with two days in Lima, followed by a flight to Cuzco for four days of visiting the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. On day seven of the trip, passengers will fly to Iquitos to board the Aria. The cruise will include piranha fishing and experiencing the Yanalipa Flooded Forest.

Avalon is offering 13 departures of the Peru itinerary in 2014 and five departures in 2015. It is priced between $5,599 and $5,999 per person, based on double occupancy.