Editor’s note: This article was published before the coronavirus pandemic, and may not reflect the current situation on the ground.

Just $250 for a six-day Amazon cruise through Brazil, including meals? It’s a no-frills affair for Mark Stratton as he takes to the river for a taste of life on the Cisne Branco.

When blue sparks crackle from the blackened wall socket in my wardrobe-sized cabin, they illuminate a rhinocerical cockroach with an uncanny ability to second-guess my intention to evict it.

But how could I complain?

I could hardly expect luxury for the price I’ve paid. Which is USD$250. So definitely no deck quoits or cheesy cabarets—instead, my fellow passengers, beery cattlemen and miners belt out leery songs to provide the nightly entertainment.

It’s only a three-hour flight between Belém, the gateway into the Amazon, and Manaus, but I’d come seeking the slow-paced adventure of one of the world’s greatest river journeys. I want to feel Amazonia’s humidity prickling my skin, hear gabbling macaws at dusk, meet Brazilians, and see, first-hand, what remains of a rainforest seemingly heading towards hell in a handcart, no thanks to deforestation and logging.