Floating Luxuriously Down the Amazon

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Aqua Expeditions

Cruise control Peruvian designer Jordi Puig has brought a calm, contemporary look to the Aria's interior and upper deck

"There are four things you need to survive on the Amazon," said Victor Coelho, our naturalist-guide, "a machete, a mosquito net, matches and salt." I realized, as festive parrots chatted above and we turned into a black-water creek, that should I be cast adrift from Coelho, I would not survive long — the only thing I was carrying was an iPhone. And even if there were an app to deal with unexpected Amazonian adventures, there were no networks.

All the more reason to stay close to the Aria, a river cruiser taking us on a four-night journey that began at the faded 19th century Peruvian rubber town of Iquitos. The Aria's interior designer, Peruvian style guru Jordi Puig, insulates guests from the jungle without by providing luxury within. The 16 rooms all have floor-to-ceiling windows, twin or king beds, and en suite sitting areas. There are loungers on the top deck, as well as a Jacuzzi and a bar where delicious pisco sours are served.

Aria's dining room offers a menu created by Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, a chef at the forefront of Peru's dynamic culinary scene and whose restaurant, Malabar, crept onto the San Pellegrino list of the world's best restaurants at No. 88 this year. Schiaffino's onboard cuisine utilizes as much Amazonian produce as possible, in dishes like fresh hearts of palm and arapaima fish in wild coriander and cured-beef broth.

If you want to work off your lunch, skiffs are available to take you upriver, where you can look for caimans and river dolphins to the unforgettable call of horned screamers (a bird that sounds like a donkey, walks like a duck, flies like a turkey and tastes like chicken, say the locals). Don't stray too far from the mother ship though — at least not without your matches and machete.

For more details, see aquaexpeditions.com.