Family Fun Afloat

Travelers take a photo op on International Expeditions' (IE) Amazon River tour.
Travelers take a photo op on International Expeditions’ (IE) Amazon River tour.

For families looking to share the most special of experiences in Latin America, Amazon and Galapagos Islands cruising sit atop family travel wish lists.

The Amazon

National Geographic Adventure magazine called International Expeditions’ (IE) Amazon River tour one of the 25 greatest adventures in the world. In 2015, this specialist in small group tours is offering designated family departures aboard its new 31-passsenger La Estrella Amazonica river cruiser, which, built with family travel in mind, has two triple cabins and four cabins on each deck with adjoining doors.

According to Emily Harley, spokesperson for the company, “In previous years, IE offered family-only departures, but we found that there needed to be more flexibility with a broader range of cruise choices. Therefore, instead of family-only cruises, we are experimenting next year with year-round departures that come with special kid-friendly experiences.” Harley further explains that “our kid-friendly activities will be arranged so that they can be inserted and removed from the program to suit the interests and age-ranges of the families aboard. With a crew of 18 aboard looking after 31 passengers, we have this flexibility.”

A sea lion sighting on an Ecoventura adventure.
A sea lion sighting on an Ecoventura adventure.

In 2015, IE will offer a shorter cruise program (seven days rather than 10) that combines a riverboat cruise with time at the luxury Ceiba Tops Rainforest Lodge, located on the banks of the Amazon River just 25 miles from Iquitos. This, Harley points out, allows for a more active program with additional rainforest hikes, canopy walkway excurions and opportunities to meet two rainforest cultures: the Yagua and Ribernos people. “We think this will appeal to working families who can only be away for a week, or to others who may want to combine seven days with the Amazon and with other parts of Peru.” The shorter cruise/lodge program, with departures on June 12 and 16, is priced from $2,832 pp, based on guests sharing a triple cabin; kids’ rates start at $2,732.

The 10-day Amazon Voyage starts with a city tour and overnight in Lima. The next day, passengers fly to Iquitos to begin their 7-day exploration of the Peruvian Amazon. From there, passengers young and old cruise on the Rio Ucayali, the water land of the pink dolphins; enter the Pacaya Samira Reserve (the largest wetland in the world) where kids focus on fishing for piranhas and spotting caimans and capybaras; hike and look for otters; and go head-to-head in a soccer match against local village kids. The riverboat enters the home stretch back to Iquitos on the Rio Maranon, and by docking time, youngsters will have learned survival skills, bird calls, 20 ways to cook a piranha, and how to make mosquito repellent from medicinal plants. Including everything but international and local air, the voyage is priced from $4,498 pp dbl, with kids from $3,595; the adult cost is $3,745 when booked into a triple cabin.

Ecoventura zodiac at Cerro Brujo, San Christobal in the Galapagos Islands,
Ecoventura zodiac at Cerro Brujo, San Christobal in the Galapagos Islands,

The Galapagos Islands
Ecoventura welcomes families with children of ages 12 and up on all expedition vessels sailing on 7-night Galapagos Islands cruises throughout the year. Families with children ages five and up can travel on any of its designated Family Departures. In fact, says Doris Welsh, director of sales and marketing, “most of our family departures are families with teenage children—ages 12 to 17 and even college age—and teens’ 7-night voyages will be more physically active than most. Our guides optimize the longest trails and all kayaking and snorkeling opportunities with less downtime at mid-day.”

Of course, youngsters are not forgotten with trips to the bridge to learn about navigational charts and nautical knots; special theme parties; masks, fins, wet suits and life vests in child sizes; special kids’ briefings; kid-friendly menus and games galore. And Welsh adds that “thanks to a growing trend on the Ecoventura yachts, the company can now designate a few departures for families traveling with grown college age kids 18-25.”

New to the company’s family program are family teen departures featuring a culture exchange and/or scientific project with local students on the island through Ecology Project International (EPI) during the cruise. The cultural exchange, Welsh explains, is offered at the EPI camp Reserva Parajo Brujo and includes lunch and a tour in the company of an EPI Ecology Club student who has a special perspective on the town of Puerto Ayora. She adds that “volunteering for beach or park cleanup might also be part of this cultural exchange.”

Ecoventura offers family and family teen travel in 2015.
Ecoventura offers family and family teen travel in 2015.

Aboard Ecoventura’s three first-class, 20-passenger motor yachts—the Eric, Flamingo and Letty—22 “family” and “family teen” departures are scheduled for 2015. Departures, every Sunday from San Cristobal Island, are one or more monthly (except in September and October). These identical yachts feature 10 double outside-facing cabins located on three decks. Prices start at $4,100 pp dbl, and $4,000 triple for the 7-night cruises. And note that children 11 years and younger at the time of sailing are entitled to a 25 percent discount off the cruise rate and also a 50 percent discount off the airfare and park tax; children ages 12-17 years get a 15 percent discount off the cruise rate only. (Child discounts are given per every adult fare paid, and no child discounts available on Christmas and New Year’s departures.) For more information on Ecoventura, call (800) 633-7972, or visit ecoventura.com; and for International Expeditions, call (800) 230-7665 or visit ietravel.com.

Ecoventura is Expecting
To find out about the new vessel joining the Ecoventura family, visit recommend.com and search “ecoventura.”