By Greg Aragon
With 2018 in the rear view mirror and a 2019 calendar opened wide on my desk, it is time to look ahead to one of the exciting getaways I have on the map for the New Year. I am looking at a return voyage aboard Windstar Cruises, and taking a Caribbean cruise in early march to Panama and Costa Rica
Windstar Cruises specializes in small ships and intimate experiences. The company’s elegant, 148 to 310-passenger cruise ships offer a personalized approach that bring guests closer to each destination and every port, so they can see the world from new angles. Unlike typical mega-ships, Windstar boats can dock in tiny ports. This allows guests to see, hear and smell the places they are visiting in an unforgettable, up close fashion. I cruised with Windstar through Tahiti and the Caribbean a few years ago and the experience left an indelible mark on my travelling soul.
For 2019, Windstar is sailing to new destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America, including new ports of call in Mexico, Honduras, Grand Cayman, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. Cruisers seeking active adventure may choose from an impressive 152 departure dates ranging in length from seven to 56 days.
Windstar’s Caribbean and Latin America cruises provide a welcome alternative to travelers who appreciate the region’s stunning beauty. The collection of Sea of Cortez, coastal, canal, and Caribbean Sea voyages emphasizes hidden harbors on smaller islands and inland coves such as picture perfect Bequia and Mayreau in the Grenadines, and lush Bahia Herradura, Costa Rica.
“The beaches, wildlife, and rainforests are a sure draw, but the way we plan and approach itineraries is what sets Windstar apart,” says Windstar President John Delaney. “We discover the most authentic cultural experiences a destination has to offer so that adventurous, imaginative travelers can come away with a different view and an enhanced understanding of their ports of call.”
The cruise line will have four of their six ships sailing in the regions, dropping anchor in tiny harbors, like Man-O-War Bay in Tobago, with many itineraries offering late-night and overnight port calls that allow guests the time to engage in local cultures in a more immersive way.
The cruise that caught my eye is called Adventures in Panama & Costa Rica. If I take this 10-day voyage I will have the opportunity to wiggle my toes in the world-famous, white sand of Playa Flamingo beach, and the black sands of Bahia Herradura. On the cruise guests can explore rainforests and cloud forests that are bastions of biodiversity, and also transit the Panama Canal, appreciating its incredible scale and triumph of engineering in a way those on mega-cruise ships could never do.
The journey stops in Colón, Balboa/Fuerte Amador, Pearl Islands, Isla Parida, Golfo Dulce, Bahia Drake, Quepos, Bahia Herradura, and Puerto Caldera. In Colon, passengers can explore the inner workings of the Panama Canal and then head into the jungle to meet with Embera Indians, or take an aerial tram ride through the rainforest canopy. In the Pearl Islands visitors can visit minute Isla Contadora, which covers less than 1-square-mile. It was the island the Spanish stopped at to count the harvested pearls collected prior to returning to Spain. The islands offer white-sand beaches and warm, turquoise waters, as well as snorkeling, deep-sea fishing and SCUBA diving.
In Golfo Dulce, sights include Jurassic foliage growing down steep hillsides all the way to the waterline and the hoots of monkeys echoing through trees choked by orchids. Golfo Dulce is one of Costa Rica’s most biodiverse areas, where both the jungle and the sea brim with life. Passengers can explore the area’s canals by kayak in search of javelinas (wild boars), butterflies, and more bird species than in all of North America.
One of the biggest highlight’s of the cruise is a stop in Quepos, Costa Rica, a former banana-exporting town sitting on the rainforest perimeter. Here, guests can walk to waterfalls, horseback to a beautiful jungle pool, or float through a mangrove swamp populated by monkeys, crocodiles, egrets, and herons.
For more information on cruising with Windstar in the Caribbean, Latin America or elsewhere around the globe, call (877) 958-7718, or visit windstarcruises.com.