Traveler Spotlight: Member Charles Stoopack, wins Amazon VoyageJanuary 14, 2019 • By THIRDHOME
Keep reading to be inspired by Charles and his wife Judy’s extraordinary journey to the gems of Peru by THIRDHOME Adventures & Custom Travel.
I was fortunate enough to be the lucky winner of an incredible Amazon River Voyage at the 2018 THIRDHOME Member Appreciation Event hosted in Nashville. Although visiting the Amazon was never at the top of my bucket list, I was so excited and in total shock when Liz Bates emailed to inform we had won. We were in the midst of planning a family wedding but definitely couldn’t pass up this amazing experience. Now having been, I’d recommend that everyone add Peru to their bucket lists!
The voyage was operated by International Expeditions which is a first class and top-notch tour operator. Everything was handled impeccably, from escorting us through the airport to private transportation to the hotels and the ship. So, if anyone has any concerns about navigating a foreign country, they need not worry, as IE was on top of everything, getting us where we needed to be when we needed to be there.
Once we were on-board the ship the attentive guest services exceeded our expectations. The 24 staff members welcomed each passenger with open arms and fully immersed each passenger into their unique culture. We loved learning about each staff members’ personal story, each serving as its own testimonial for the great pride they all share for their country and its culture. One of the main highlights of the voyage was the extraordinary Peruvian musical and dance performances by the staff each night. The ship itself was beautifully decorated and completely renovated. The spa room had floor to ceiling glass windows so that one is able to look out over the river while enjoying your massage treatments. The main dining room was spacious, and allowed passengers to have flexible seating to dine with each other in small communal groups or privately as a couple for more intimacy.
If you love birding this is a must do experience for you! I was never a bird enthusiast but on this trip I became more and more invested into this unique hobby of feathered friends, as the majority of wildlife we encountered on this voyage were local indigenous birds. So, be sure to pack really good binoculars and a powerful zoom lens with your camera! I’d have to say that the educational aspect of this experience was most memorable. The on-board lectures were very informative and as passengers we were able to gain a well-rounded understanding of Peru’s culture, biodiversity, local communities and economy, and how these are intertwined with the annual rise and fall of the river during the rainy and dry seasons. Not to mention we were on-board with passengers from the Smithsonian, so many of our conversations yielded deep discussion of each lecture and education excursions, such as our local children’s school visit, a nature hike through the Peruvian jungle, and a unique encounter with a local shaman.
We also decided to add on a trip extension to Machu Picchu, which I highly recommend. It was a completely different experience that complimented the Amazon voyage perfectly, almost like visiting two completely different countries. The extension was also operated by IE and was all-inclusive, with five star accommodations and gourmet meals throughout the entire tour. The food was so delicious that my wife and I joked that we basically ate our way through Peru, even though were rarely eat 3 course meals breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We also were lucky enough to have an amazing private guide that escorted us to all the most incredible attractions including the Sacred Valley, Aguas Calientes, Cusco, and the Maras Salt Flats. From the beginning to the end of the journey, especially the extraordinary Vistadome Train ride to the peak of Machu Picchu, we were truly unprepared for the rugged beauty of the valley and the awe-inspiring experiences we encountered.
Charles Stoopack is a longtime THIRDHOME member and frequent traveler with a home in Vail, Colorado.