Embarkation Delfin III
The journey aboard the Delfin III started at Iquitos Airport in the north of Peru. In the late 19th century Iquitos become the center of rubber production from the Amazon Basin. The rubber boom attracted lots of European workers and traders, many of whom became extremely wealthy. Nowadays, the city has a population of nearly 500,000 residents and continues to be a vibrant trading port. The days of rubber production are long gone, but the city’s European influence prevails. Buildings like the Iron House by French architect Gustave Eiffel and Iquitos’ Neo-gothic Cathedral complete with a Swiss-made clock still stand proud in the colonial center.
Our guide Jairo welcomed our group before ushering us to air-conditioned transport that would take us to the town of Nauta, the embarkation port of the Delfin III. After a brief welcome speech, we were presented with a box lunch, a reusable aluminum water bottle (full), some cold beers and soft drinks (gaseosas as they say in Peru). Leaving behind the shanty town constructions of the outskirts of Iquitos, the 1-hour and 45-minutes journey to Nauta followed a well-paved road and the only highway in the region.
On arrival in Nauta our anticipation intensified as we entered the plush Delfin III welcome lodge. Whilst our luggage was portered across to the waiting Delfin III, we checked-in for the cruise whilst sipping on a chilled passionfruit juice. A Luxury Amazon River Cruise had always on my bucket list, but now it was actually happening, and I couldn’t wait to see what was to come.
Delfin III: Cabins & Facilities
The Delfin III is the third boat operated by ‘Delfin Amazon Cruises’ offering Luxury Amazon River Cruises in Peru’s Northern Amazon Jungle. Built in 2015, the Delfin III is the biggest of the fleet with a capacity to hold 44 guests and 30+ crew. Split between the lower and middle decks there are x19 Standard Suites, x2 Corner Suites and x1 Owners Suite. Suites offer either a queen bed or two-standard single beds per cabin and all come complete with air-conditioning, marble bathrooms and a floor to ceiling panoramic windows. The comfort level of the cabins aboard the Delfin III is high, but I would consider them to be more comparable with a 4-star hotel rather than out and out luxury. The luxury however comes in the details, like the elaborate daily towel arrangements, the turn-down service complete with hand-made chocolates, a beautiful presentation book about the Amazon (a gift) and the welcome bottle of Cava. Covering almost all the top-deck of the Delfin III is the lounge and bar area. This fully air-conditioned space has large lounger chairs and sofas where guests can relax and mingle. A large wooden bar arcs across the rear of the lounge, where attentive barman Richard and Aleas offer round the clock cocktails and drinks. Beers and Pisco Sours are included, whilst wines and premium liquors are charged at additional cost. Here you’ll also find the coffee station and late afternoon snacks. At the rear of the boat on the same deck is a small round dip pool. Although a refreshing option in the intense jungle climate, I noticed that this facility was rarely used, with most people retiring to the comfort of the air-conditioned lounge. The spa is also located on the same deck. With just one-masseuse (the only female crew member) and one massage table, the spa facility is small but adequate. Basic body massages, hot stone treatments and facials are all available.
The Cruise Director
After boarding the Delfin III, we were ushered to the lounge area just in time for our welcome briefing. It was here that we met for the first time our cruise director. Originally from Lima, Ricardo, a well-presented charming guy in his late 30’s had the unenvious task of managing all aspects of the cruise and the guests. After running through the usual safety protocol and alarms aboard the Delfin III, Ricardo explained a little more in detail about what we could expect over the coming 4-days including meal times, excursions and facilities aboard the boat. Unbeknown to most as the briefing progressed the Delfin III effortlessly left its berth and our Luxury Amazon River Cruise was officially underway.
The Schedule & Pace
It was clear that the schedule aboard the Delfin III had been carefully thought out; I guess from many years of trial and error. There was a seamless coordination of excursions, meals, on-board activities and sailing of the boat itself. Each evening there was a briefing in the lounge to inform of the following day’s schedule, which was also repeated on chalk boards outside of the restaurant. Everything felt well-polished and the crew maintained a tight schedule. In addition reminders were also given through the public announced system and in-room telephones 30-minutes before each scheduled activity. This was particularly helpful in the mornings when most guests were still fast asleep.
From a personal stand-point I was a little concerned about the pace of the schedule aboard the Delfin III. Overly packed schedules with early starts and late finishes can often leave you feeling washed out and tired. As a traveler myself and a travel planner for others, I like trips which are well-paced. However, I am pleased to report that the balance of activities verses downtime seemed about right. My main challenge was staying focused after a couple of glasses of midday wine that accompanied meals.
Seasons & the Best Time to Travel
Jorge our naturalist guide explained that the excursions vary depending on the time of the year and the level of the rivers. During the high-water season (November – April) there is more flood water and the skiffs can travel further into creeks and tributaries. During the low-water season (May – October) there is less water and the ground is firmer allowing for more land excursions and hiking. Jorge told me that there is no better or worse time to travel to the Pacaya-Samiria National Park, but when I pushed him further, he folded and told me the best time to travel is between August and October.
Excursions & Activities
There was a daily rhythm of activities and excursions aboard the Delfin III, which consisted of a dawn excursion, followed by breakfast, a morning excursion, then lunch, an activity on-board the boat, dinner and finally a dusk/nighttime excursion. As you would expect most of the off-boat excursions focused on wildlife spotting, but other activities also included a visit to local community, a cooking class, kayaking and even an afternoon film on the Amazon. Over the 4-days there were many wonderful moments, but there were also some truly unique moments on this Amazon River cruise. Here is my take on a few of the best moments:
Hiking a Nature Trail: As dawn broke over the Pacaya-Samiria National Park we headed off by foot into the jungle looking for animals. With the assistance of our eagle-eyed guide we were lucky to spot an anteater, a family of squirrel monkeys, a tree snake plus countless number of exotic birds. This was our first wildlife spotting adventure of the trip, and despite the early morning start we were rewarded with some great sightings.
Meet a local Amazonian healer and shaman: As night set over the Amazon we walked the short distance to Carola’s ritual center, an open-sided round wooden structure with a thatched roof. Illumined only by a few oil lamps and with the sound of the jungle in the background, there was a mysterious somewhat eerie feel about the evening. Our group listened intently as Carola explained how she became a shaman, the typical plants used in healing and also the weekly ayahuasca ceremonies that she performed. Our encounter that evening left many mystified but none more than a female in our group who was examined by Carola and was deemed to have a turquoise aura and no serious illnesses.
Swimming in the Amazon: Several of our group were already in the water and beckoning me to join them. As I jumped off the skiff I tried to put to the back of my mind that the Amazon River was full of man-eating animals. Aided by a kids swimming float (thoughtfully provided by Delfin) we gently ebbed back and forth in the current. The realization that I was swimming in the Amazon River surrounded by pristine jungle was mind-blowing. It got even more surreal when a couple of pink dolphins joined us.
The Birth Place of the Amazon & Bird Island: As dusk settled over the Amazon we arrived at the convergence of the Marañon and Ucayali Rivers. Unexpectedly, Jorge our naturalist guide handed out some chifles (fried banana chips) and a glass of sparkling wine. Jumping energetically to the front of the skiff he announced that we “had made it.” We had arrived at the birth place of the mighty Amazon River. After celebrating with a clinking of plastic wine glasses we headed further down-river to a national reserve known locally as ‘Bird Island’. Here with a glass of bubbly in hand we observed thousands of macaws returning to the protection of the island for the evening. Swarming in circles, constantly joined by more macaws, the sight, sound and moment was simply breath-taking.
Dining on the Delfin III
Earlier I mentioned that the luxury element aboard the Delfin III presented itself in the details. This was never more evident than at meal times. The meals were so good, I felt myself entering the restaurant each day with a heightened sense of anticipation. I wanted to be impressed and discover something new and I was never once disappointed. Located on the second deck to the rear of the boat, the restaurant was decorated with over-sized tables adorned with plush white lining and sparkling glassware. Each meal time tables were ornately decorated with different colored stones or grains and the napkins were clasped together by locally handmade jungle animal figurines. These details were a classy touch and certainly a conversation starter.
Naturally, the cuisine was inspired by jungle ingredients and flavors. Breakfast was served as a buffet and had a distinct Amazonian twist with offerings like boiled plantain, cecina (dried pork), Tacacho (fried Amazonian banana) and tamales. For the traditionalists amongst us eggs, bread and coffee was also available. There was also a selection of fresh juices including orange juice, passion fruit and cocona. For lunch and dinner the menu was varied and tasty. Each meal included fresh bread, an entrée, a main-course and dessert. I particularly enjoyed the Amazonian Doncella fish over sweet pepper sauce and the duck served with peach palm stuffed raviolis. The meals were a showcase of traditional Amazonian cuisine, many of which I discovered for the first time. During meal times red and white wine was included without charge and was free-flowing. A first-rate restaurant in the middle of the Amazon Jungle – simply wonderful.
They say that travel is now all about unique experiences and this Luxury Amazon River Cruise was certainly up there with the best. It surpassed my expectations. From the start to the finish I felt comfortable, relaxed and enchanted by the whole experience. It was a dreamy mix of enjoyment, discovery, comfort, service, exciting Amazon cuisine and plentiful Peruvian wine. I just wish this could be somehow incorporated into my regular life! It was also noticeable that ALL the crew aboard the boat were extremely attentive and helpful. They were well-presented, professional and warm towards the guests. I was charmed by the crew’s neatly pressed uniforms and sharp personal presentation (a special mention goes out to Ricardo the Cruise Director, who’s hairdo would have put most soccer stars to shame). The crew aboard the Delfin III made this trip more than just a visit to the jungle; they showed the best of Peruvian hospitality in every sense and helped elevate the whole experience to another level.
Considering this, it is no wonder that Delfin Amazon Cruises are recognized by the luxury brand Relais & Châteaux and have featured in Forbes, Condé Nast Traveler and the National Geographic Traveler.
What Could be Done Better?
As the owner of TLA Travel I always try to be objective when reviewing a service like this as ultimately I am going to have to decide if I should recommend this to our clients. Overall I would say that the whole experience was really quite exceptional, but there were a few minor details that could be improved.
In terms of being a luxury cruise I was impressed with the guides, the crew and cuisine, however, I wasn’t overly convinced about the boat itself. I felt that there was a certain lack of opulence that I would expect aboard a Luxury Amazon River Cruise. This was most noticeable in the slightly tired décor of the restaurant and in some minor maintenance issues in our cabin. For this reason I would only give the installations aboard boat a 4-star rating.
Being accustomed to more vigorous and noisy sailings across the English Channel, I was impressed by the lack of engine noise and vibrations from the boat in the lounge and cabin areas. However, this wasn’t the case in the restaurant which was located directly above the engine bay. The elevated noise levels from the two mighty Caterpillar engines somewhat overpowered a typical table conversation, leaving most guests shouting at each other. This only occurred when the engines were running, but the overall effect was like eating a meal during a soccer match with some 36 people bellowing at each other. Clearly though, this is a minor issue and something that I am including as I am finding it tough to find fault elsewhere.
Delfin III: Specifications
- Year Built: 2015
- Type of vessel: River vessel
- Port of Embarkation: City of Nauta
- Vessel’s Registry: Peru
- Length: 183 feet (55.7 meters)
- Beam: 39 feet (11.8 meters)
- Draft: 8’6” (2.6 meters)
- Capacity: 44 passengers
- Generator: 2 Caterpillars, 120KW each (encapsulated)
- Engine: 2 Caterpillar C18 455HP eco-electronic
- Cruising Speed: Average 12 knots
- Water: Water treatment plant with 4.4 cubic meter capacity
- Sewage Waters: Sewage treatment plant
- Radio Communication: VHF, UHF and satellite phone on board
- Launch Boats: 3 aluminum 15-passenger skiffs equipped with four-stroke low emission Mercury 60HP engines plus radio communications with main vessel, life jackets and flares
- Life Jackets: one per passenger, available in each suite
Is the Delfin III Worth the Money
The Delfin III is the most affordable luxury Amazon River Cruise offered by the company, but it certainly isn’t cheap. The 3-nights cruise is advertised at US$ 2,550 per person for a bottom deck Suite, rising to US$ 3,600 per person for the Owner’s Suite (2019 rates). So, is it worth the money? The answer is a definite yes. I could try to justify my reasons but this article probably does the job sufficiently. What experience takes you deep into the Amazon Jungle, tantalizes all of you senses and re-connects you with mother nature? Enough said! If this excites you and you have the money in the budget to spend, then this should be included in your trip!
Remember that TLA Travel has commercial agreements with Delfin Amazon Cruise offer strong discounts. Dream no longer and allow us to make this cruise a reality. Contact a Peru luxury tours expert for more details.