Central America is ripe for expedition-style cruising, and the
routings and activities that cruise ships are marketing for the
winter season highlight natural history, culture, a bit of the
water-sporting life and light adventure.
The hallmarks of expedition cruises are their informal
lifestyle, their accent on learning, and their ability to include
stops and shore excursions that larger ships are unable to offer.
Additionally, many ships carry snorkeling gear and kayaks, just two
examples of the special dimensions of the action-oriented cruise
Clients cruising in Central American waters -- the Caribbean or
Pacific -- will discover that fellow expedition cruise passengers
generally have a lot in common: They are active people,
well-educated and well-traveled.
They will also find that, unlike cruises on larger ships, most
expedition sailings put the accent on seeing and doing by including
shore excursions in the cruise price.
Following is a look at companies offering expedition cruises.
Prices are per person double, and do not include air fares, except
Temptress Adventure Cruises'Temptress
Voyager will be sailing in Costa Rican waters next year, with
a visit also to Coiba Island National Park in Panama. Cruises will
depart from and return to Puntarenas, and cruise ports of call will
include the Curu Wildlife Refuge, Tortuga Island, Corcovado
National Park, Coiba Island, the Corcovado conservation area at
Drake Bay and Manuel Antonio National Park.
The 62-passenger Voyager, fitted with outside cabins with
private bath and air conditioning, features a program of natural
history and light adventure, with shore excursions led by staff
guides. The line also offers children's programs with trained
counselors in charge. Activities for all include snorkeling,
diving, kayaking, sport fishing and water skiing.
Cruises can be booked for three-, four- and seven nights; the
seven-night program in the high season (Dec. 11 to April 15) ranges
from $1,995 to $2,695; the balance of the year, per person costs
range from $1,695 to $2,195.
Additionally, the company will operate two New Year's voyages to
Panama and Costa Rica: Dec. 26 through Jan. 4 aboard the Temptress
Voyager and Dec. 27 through Jan. 5 aboard the 100-passenger
Temptress Explorer. The two ships will pass each other during the
historic Canal transit.
Ports of call on these cruises include Manuel Antonio and
Corcovado National Parks in Costa Rica and Coiba Island, Las Perlas
Islands, Portobelo, the San Blas Islands and the Hollandaise Cayes.
Prices range from $3,625 to $3,925.
Lindblad Special Expeditions has chartered the
100-passenger Temptress Explorer for 10 departures, five
from San Jose and five from Panama City between Feb. 19 and April
22; all cruises are accompanied by two staff expedition
The seven-night itinerary starts in Puntarenas and includes
ports of call at Manuel Antonio National Park, Refugio Curu, the
Osa Peninsula and Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica, and the Isla Coiba
National Park, Las Perlas Islands and the Panama Canal transit in
Panama, before disembarking in Balboa.
The cruise costs range from $2,980 to $4,180, featuring
accommodations in outside cabins with twin double or queen-size
beds; an optional six-night extension is available in Costa Rica at
a per person cost of $1,790.
Tauck Tours will operate La Ponant,
carrying 60 passengers in private-sailing yacht style to see the
Treasures of Costa Rica and the Panama Canal between Jan. 11 and
through March 8.
The nine-night program features six nights aboard La Ponant,
preceded by visits in Costa Rica to a butterfly farm, the Poas
Volcano National Park, the Cafe Britt coffee plantation, a rain
forest aerial tram ride and Sarchi, where artisans paint colorful
ox carts. On the cruise itinerary, ports of call are the Braulio
Carrillo National Park and Marenco Biological Reserve in Costa
Rica, Coiba Island National Park, the Pearl Islands, a Panama Canal
transit and the San Blas Islands.
The land/cruise cost is $4,090 per person and includes all land
and cruise arrangements, shore excursions and wine with dinner.
American Canadian Caribbean Line has added five
new seven-day itineraries to its Belize/Barrier Reef destination,
operating between Feb. 25 and through March 24; its 12-day
Belize/Barrier Reef and Guatemala routing will have five sailings,
Dec. 17 and 29 (for the Millennium), Jan. 14 and 28 and Feb.
The company's informal and friendly ship is the 84-passenger
Niagara Prince, whose itineraries feature the wonders of
Maya ruins in Belize and Guatemala and those of Belize's Barrier
Reef. The latter can be explored from a glass bottom boat or by
snorkeling, using the ship's equipment. The ship also features a
specially designed bow ramp that lowers onto secluded beaches.
Rates for the 12-day cruises range from $1,800 to $2,645, and
costs for the seven-day cruise range from $1,050 to $1,540. A
pre-cruise package, available for all Belize cruises, takes
passengers to the Xunantunich ruins, Guanacaste Park and Belize
Windstar Cruises has scheduled nine cruises in
Costa Rica aboard the 148-passenger Wind Song between Jan.
8 and March 4, departing from Puerto Caldera. The seven-day cruise
makes a first-time visit this season to San Juan del Sur in
Nicaragua, with an excursion to colonial Grenada, and then sails
into the small Costa Rican ports of San Josecito, Drake Bay, Quepos
Playa Flamingo, Curu Reserve and Tortuga Island.
Windstar's cruise is offered at a two-for-one promotion for
cruise-only cost that starts at $2,043; the cruise's price with air
from Miami and transfers in Costa Rica starts at $2,595 per
Windstar's newest destination for 2000 is Belize, with cruises
departing from Cancun, Mexico, and following the route of the Maya
for seven days to Roatan, Honduras; Goff's Caye, Half Moon Caye
Reserve, and San Pedro in Belize, and Cozumel in Mexico, before
returning to Cancun.
From Jan. 23 through April 23, the 14 cruises scheduled aboard
the 148-passenger Wind Star, are available at ASAP (Advanced
Savings Advantage Program) for cruise-only starting at $2,337;
inclusive of port charges and taxes, this represents a savings of
up to 45% off the brochure rate and applies to all sailings between
Jan. 23 and April 23.
Shore excursions for Windstar Cruises' passengers highlight the
ecotourism aspects of the region and range from canopy rain forest
tours, to swimming with the dolphins and snorkeling among the
sharks or visiting Maya cities of Copan and Tikal. Excursion costs
are additional, as is scuba diving for both certified divers and
new divers interested in the Resort Certification Course.Contact Numbers
American Canadian Caribbean Line: (800) 556-7450
Lindblad Special Expeditions: (800) 397-3348
Tauck Tours: (800) 214-5158
Temptress Cruises: (800) 336-8423
Windstar Cruises: (800) 258-7245