Why: We recommend Iberostar’s 144-passenger Grand Amazon for an authentic Amazon trip. Lots of big-ship lines offer cruises on the Amazon river, but the best way to genuinely get a feel for not only its nature aspects but also its culture is to sail on a smaller ship.
(The truly adventurous can book passage on typical bring-your-own-hammock Amazon River vessels; we recommend cruising in a bit more comfort.) What we like about Iberostar, a hospitality company that operates hotels and small ships in the region, is that it knows its way around.
Best Features: Daytime activities feature excursions on smaller boats to explore dense virgin vegetation, including a wide range of trees, plants and animals, as well as local river communities; fishing classes are another option. At night, we love the live music shows and low-key theme parties.
Destination Highlights: Choose from itineraries on the Rio Solimoes or the Rio Negro, where you can trek through the jungle, visit local villages and put your binoculars to good use looking for pink dolphins, sloths, birds of all sorts (including toucans) and alligators. A highlight is the “meeting of the waters,” where the black waters and tan waters of different rivers meet up and run side-by-side without mixing. Piranha fishing is also a popular activity.
Beware: You’ll feel guilty living in such luxury after visiting very basic local villages.