Avalon Waterways has ramped up security after pirates raided and robbed travellers, including Australians, New Zealanders and Americans, aboard one of its luxury river cruises.
The armed bandits used a small craft to reach the vessel Amazon Discovery on the Amazon River near Iquitos in Peru early on Thursday morning. They leapt aboard the boat and robbed passengers and crew of goods worth about USD 20,000. One report says the captain was pistol-whipped and that eight assailants, armed with “large-calibre weapons” were in control of the ship for about half an hour.
Tourists aboard included six Australians, two New Zealanders and 21 Americans. The ship has a crew of 25 Peruvians.
Avalon posted the following on its Facebook page:
Early this morning, an Avalon cruise, travelling along the Amazon River, was robbed. Most importantly, all guests and staff onboard are safe and are being escorted back to Iquitos by the Coast Guard. This afternoon, we are planning to fly our guests to Lima where hotel accommodations will be provided for them.
Representatives from the ship – as well as counsellors – will be with guests for the remainder of their stay. Flight arrangements are being made and we will be providing travellers compensation to cover costs of their journeys home.
The safety of our passengers is always our top priority. Avalon Waterways has implemented extra security measures for this and future Amazon cruises. If you are a travel agent or an immediate family member of travellers affected by this incident, please contact Avalon Waterways at 866.397.6593 or [email protected]
US media reports quoted Oscar Garrido-Lecca, port captain in the Peruvian river city of Iquitos, saying police were scouring the area for the robbers.
On its website, Avalon describes Amazon Discovery as “the best ship on the Amazon”:
“Built in 2015, the new Amazon Discovery ship allows guests to explore the Peruvian Amazon in the utmost comfort. This spacious and indulgent ship boasts an intimate atmosphere with only 22 suites, allowing a maximum of 44 guests on board.”
Each luxury suite features floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows that frame the Amazon Jungle in the backdrop. “Your suite even comes with a telescope for stargazing.”
In his Cruise Law News blog, Jim Walker, the noted Miami-based maritime lawyer, reports that Peruvian company Delfin Amazon Cruises has owned and operated Amazon Discovery since it was launched in October 2015.
The US publication Travel Pulse carried a statement by Delfin Amazon Cruises on the incident.
“The safety of guests aboard the ship is of utmost importance to Delfin Amazon Cruises, which owns and operates Amazon Discovery. This isolated incident – the first in the company’s ten years of cruising the Amazon – is not reflective of the Amazon region today, which continues to be an increasingly desirable destination for visitors.
“Staff onboard the Amazon Discovery and at its Lima headquarters have further advanced measures to ensure the safety of its current and future passengers. The company is implementing a Peruvian river cruising protection strategy that includes the presence of permanent surveillance staff onboard. The vessel will also be accompanied by further security in a green speedboat marked Policia de Turismo.”
Attacks on Amazon cruise vessels are rare, though the New York Times reported that in 2009, the luxury Aqua Expeditions cruise ship was boarded by armed pirates, who robbed the passengers of cameras, cash and jewellery.
Forums on Cruise Critic following last week’s attack indicate prospective passengers have some misgivings.
One cruiser writes: “This [Amazon Discovery] is one of the boats we’re considering for a 4-5 day trip next February from Iquitos. I’m sure Avalon will treat its pax very well, but I wonder how the smaller operators would handle it. Many of the boats are much smaller than the Amazon Discovery, and more even luxurious.
I’m reconsidering the whole thing right now. Anyone else in this situation?”
Written by Peter Needham