Aqua Nera raises the bar on comfort and decor on the Amazon. Public rooms and accommodations are adorned with plenty of wood veneer and textured surfaces at every turn. The Aqua Nera Lounge, the main spot for cocktails and socializing onboard, looks like it would be at home in a Ritz-Carlton property on land, thanks to its clubby vibe, low-slung chairs and vaulted wooden beam ceiling.
This is a spacious and modern ship, equipped with floor-to-ceiling windows throughout. Amenities range from the expected (a small spa and fitness center) to the unexpected (a dedicated games room with a pool table).
Other welcome features include an on-deck cinema for movie-watching under the stars, an indoor screening room with theater-style seating, an onboard boutique with antique and artisanal items, and a proliferation of indoor and outdoor bars, lounges and dining spaces.
Explorations ashore are conducted via four motorized onboard skiffs.
Dine indoors or outdoors aboard Aqua Nera with an elegantly-appointed main dining room, or dine privately alfresco. Dishes are designed by Aqua Expeditions in conjunction with Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, a top Peruvian chef who has been recognized for creating refined cuisine using local Amazonian ingredients.
Schiaffino also handles cuisine onboard fleetmate Aria Amazon and has worked with Aqua Expeditions for more than a decade. Expect to find plenty of creative dishes like "causa" with shrimp escabeche, crunchy avocado and fresh buffalo mozzarella salad, and chicken stewed in fermented palm fruit.
Dining is always open-seating, and beverages -- including complimentary beer and wine -- are served with lunch and dinner. Coffee, tea and cookies are featured in the lounge throughout the day, and purified water is offered onboard for refilling your own personal bottles. (It's a good idea to hydrate; the Amazon can be hot, hot hot!) Room service is not available.
Each of the 20 Design Suites offered aboard Aqua Nera is identical in terms of size and amenities -- though it is possible to combine two of these suites together to create an interconnecting room that's twice as large. There are four interconnecting suites onboard Aqua Nera that can accommodate up to six or be reconfigured for two by turning one suite into a living area and the other into a bedroom. Each of Aqua Nera's 20 Design Suites measures 322 square feet independently and can accommodate up to three passengers.
Designed in conjunction with award-winning architect Noor Design (which counts Excelsior Yangon and Scenic Spirit among its clients), suites onboard Aqua Nera draw inspiration from the Amazon's Mirrored Forest, with textured wall coverings, plenty of dark wooden accents, soft lighting and floor-to-ceiling windows. Suites feature king beds that can be separated into two twins, a couch that converts into a sofa bed for one, full air-conditioning, a music docking station, large closets with a safe and bathrooms with dual sinks, premium toiletries and rainforest showers.
Aqua Nera's sun deck offers a surprising number of attractions and diversions for a river cruise ship of its size. Up top, passengers will find a gym, game room, screening room, outdoor dining area, outdoor bar and lounge, and plunge pool.
In addition to the indoor and outdoor cinemas onboard Aqua Nera, the ship's game room is a rarity for a river ship, and the vessel's numerous indoor and outdoor bars and lounges are likely to be favored spots to spend time.
Though offered, enrichment activities like cooking classes and lectures aren't as much of a centerpiece for Aqua Expeditions as they are on other river cruise lines in the Amazon, though expeditions ashore are high quality. Most passengers are content to read or mingle with other cruisers during cocktail hour and other downtime.
When it debuts in August 2020, Aqua Nera will join fleetmate Aria Amazon in operating the three-night Amazon Discovery cruises four-night Amazon Explorer sailings and weeklong Amazon Expedition voyages. The weeklong cruises sail roundtrip from Iquitos, while the shorter voyages bus passengers from Iquitos to the town of Nauta to join the vessel.