My husband and I were part of Lindblad / National Geographic tour of the Upper Amazon on Delfin II for Oct. 29 - Nov. 5, 2017. We have been on 21 cruises, including three expedition cruises (Celebrity Xpedition to Galapagos twice and Silversea Explorer to Antarctica) but this was the smallest boat we've been on and our first river cruise.
We booked the 10-night package, which included two nights before and one night after the cruise at the Wyndham Costa del Sol airport hotel in Lima. We arrived in Lima late (almost midnight) on the Friday night before our cruise. The hotel is right across the street from the airport, so we could walk to it, which was nice because the taxi line was extremely long. Other than being convenient for the airport, the hotel was nothing special. The room was clean but worn-looking with basic amenities (shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, body wash), two bottles of water, and Wi-Fi. The hotel has a spa with a small hot tub (seats about 4) and a tiny pool (15 ft X 7 ft).
For the first day, breakfast was included but no other meals, and there were no planned activities until evening. There is nothing within walking distance of the hotel so my husband and I took a taxi to Miraflores, which was about 40 minutes away. There was a Meet & Greet planned for that evening in the hotel bar, but we stayed longer than expected in Miraflores and missed it. Lima traffic is very heavy and "rush hour" lasts until late at night.
Breakfast at the hotel was also included for the next morning. After breakfast we met the group for our flight to Iquitos. The flight is one of my few complaints. No effort was made to keep traveling companions together and our seats were all over the plane. My husband's seat was across the aisle and two rows back from mine. The man seated next to me was part of our group, but his wife was seated three rows up.
Once we arrived in Iquitos we were taken for lunch at a floating restaurant called Al Frio y Al Fuego. To get there, we had to climb down several uneven steps and board a boat. Lunch was very nice and included beer and wine as well as a selection of juices. After lunch we had a brief tour of Iquitos (about 30 minutes) before heading to Nauta, which was about 2 hours away, to board the Delfin II.
Upon arrival in Nauta, we were greeted with cold fruit juice before boarding. Since there were only 26 of us, check-in was quick and we were in our cabins within 15 minutes. My husband and I had cabin 16, located on deck 2, forward port side.
Each day had 2 -3 activities that enabled us to see wildlife, flora, and people in the Pacaya-Samiria region. The activities included skiff rides, hikes, kayaking, swimming, and visits to local communities. When hiking, kayaking, or swimming were offered, there was also a skiff ride available for those who preferred a less active excursion. The excursion groups were kept to 10 or less with a naturalist guide assigned to each group to point out and describe the various sights. Even though the hikes were short (no more than 3 miles), they could be strenuous and required walking/climbing on uneven terrain, stepping over roots, crossing rope bridges, wading through shallow streams, and slippery/muddy conditions. Because some passengers were unaccustomed to the tropical climate, the more active excursions were usually in the early morning. Some of the early activities started at 5:30 or 6 in the morning.
Day 1 - Skiff ride before breakfast, hike or skiff after breakfast, evening skiff ride
Day 2 - Hike or skiff before breakfast, kayaking or skiff after breakfast, evening hiking or skiff ride
Day 3 - Visit to local community after breakfast, evening kayaking or skid ride
Day 4 - Skiff ride after breakfast, evening skiff ride
Day 5 - Long morning excursion with skiff ride and swimming, evening hiking or skiff ride
Day 6 - Skiff ride after breakfast, evening visit to local community
During several of the excursions, local people had hand-crafts for sale. Since they only accept Peruvian soles for purchases, it is recommended to have small denominations available for making purchases. Some passengers brought along supplies for community schools, such as markers, pencils, crayons, games, etc.
The area is a bird-watchers paradise. We saw too many to remember all of them. other than the birds, we spotted monkeys, sloths, bats, caiman, turtles, iguanas, dolphins, snakes, spiders, and a variety of insects. Our guides were familiar with the daily routines for many of the animals and took us places where we were more likely to see them, such as a favorite tree for the night monkeys or bats.
In addition to the daily excursions, there were 1 or 2 afternoon activities on board, such as lectures about the Amazon, photography workshops, and cooking presentations. The evenings were mostly relaxing with a briefing at 6:30 to review the activities for the following day then dinner around 7. The remainder of the evening was free time.
The atmosphere on board was extremely laid-back, with most people wearing shorts or casual pants/capris for meals. A couple of nights the crew played Peruvian music after dinner and a few people danced.
There is a spa available for those who want a massage, facial, or mani/pedi. I didn't try the spa, but a couple people who did said the therapist was very good, but she didn't speak English very well so communication was a problem. There is also a "gym" that consists of a single elliptical machine. There is no pool or hot tub.
Despite the hot and humid conditions, pants and long sleeves are recommended for the daily excursions. Mosquitoes were prevalent and a few people wore mosquito netting hats and gloves to prevent bites. There was organic mosquito repellent available on the boat, but I did not find it to be effective enough. I brought a 100% DEET repellent that I sprayed on my clothes about 15 minutes before I put them on then used 40% DEET spray on any exposed skin. I did not have issues with bites, but the mosquitoes would still buzz around my face, which was annoying.
I was provided with a recommended packing list before the trip, but I found that several of the items were provided on board. The list recommended bringing two pairs of shoes for hiking (in case one pair gets wet/muddy), but rubber calf-high boots were provided for the hikes. I never wore my hiking shoes. Flashlights for night hikes and ponchos for rainy days were provided. There were also a few pairs of binoculars that could be borrowed. In addition, most common toiletry items were available, such as shampoo, conditioner, bath gel, soap, Q-tips, and lotion.
Meals were very good on board, featuring local dishes. Breakfast was buffet style but lunch and dinner were served as 3-course meals (appetizer, main course, and dessert). Sodas, juice, tea, water, and coffee are included in fare. Beer, wine, and liquor was additional but prices were reasonable. Snacks were available in the afternoons from the bar. Gratuities were not included in the fare, and $150 USD pp was the suggested amount. Our cruise documents said that tips should be paid in cash, but on board we were told that they could be paid with a credit card. American Express and Discover cards are not accepted for payments on board.
The cabin was gorgeous with wood flooring and walls and well-maintained. It was located at the front of the boat on deck 2 and had four large windows with nearly 90 degrees of viewing. It had a shower, but water pressure was limited and temperature fluctuated. Upon returning from excursions, just a dribble of water was available due to so many people trying to clean up the same time. The septic system was fragile and we were asked to throw toilet paper in a bucket and not the bowl. The cabin steward emptied the bucket 2-3 times a day and scent spray was provided to eliminate odors.
The only complaint about the cabin was the lack of storage space. There was a single armoire with a bar for hangers and two shelves. There were also 8 hooks scattered around the room for hanging items. There were no drawers, and the bed was too low to allow suitcases to be stored under it. The sink area was small with a single shelf under it for toiletries.