- Photo Tours
- Carnival Breeze – Exotic Eastern Caribbean
- Carnival Freedom – Western Caribbean
- Carnival Miracle – Mexican Riviera
- Carnival Paradise – Cuba
- Carnival Pride – Bahamas from Baltimore
- Coral Princess – Ultimate Alaska with Cruise Experts Travel
- Cuba Cruise Louis Cristal – Cuba
- MSC Divina – Eastern Caribbean
- Norwegian Breakaway – Christening
- Norwegian Epic – Eastern Caribbean
- Norwegian Pearl – Alaska RT Seattle
- Quantum of the Seas – Preview Cruise
- Zuiderdam – Alaska Inside Passage
- Hurtigruten FRAM – Antarctica
- Hurtigruten Midnatsol – North Cape
- Passing Cloud – BC’s Gulf Islands
- Passing Cloud – Haida Gwaii
- S.S. Legacy – Columbia & Snake Rivers
- Safari Endeavour – Alaska’s Glacier Country
- Safari Voyager – Mexico’s Sea of Cortes
- Schooner Zodiac – Brew Cruise 2013
- Schooner Zodiac – Wine Cruise
- Silver Discoverer – Australia to Indonesia
- Silver Explorer – Arctic Svalbard
- Silver Explorer – British Isles
- Silver Galapagos – Galapagos Islands
- Wind Spirit – Stockholm to Oslo
- Wind Star – Rome to Nice
- EUROPA 2 – Greece & Turkey
- Queen Mary 2 – Eastbound Transatlantic 2012
- Queen Mary 2 – Westbound Transatlantic 2015
- Seabourn Sojourn – Ultimate Alaskan Sojourn
- Silver Shadow – Exotic Alaska
- Silver Shadow – Southeast Asia & Myanmar
- Silver Spirit – Athens to Barcelona
- Silver Spirit- Eastbound Transatlantic
- Silver Wind – Mediterranean
- Silver Wind – Middle East
- Silver Wind – South Africa
- AmaLotus – Cambodia & Vietnam
- AmaLyra- Danube Christmas Markets
- American Empress on the Columbia
- Avalon Expression – Amsterdam to Nuremberg
- Emerald Waterways Emerald Star – Danube Delights
- G Adventures – India’s Ganges
- S.S. Maria Theresa – Christening
- Tauck ms Inspire – Maiden Voyage
- Tauck Swiss Jewel – Blue Danube
- Viking Baldur – Danube Christmas
- Viking Baldur – Rhine Christmas
- Viking Forseti – Chateaux, Rivers & Wine
- Viking Freya – Danube Christmas
- Viking Longships Christening 2012
- Viking Longships Christening 2013
- Viking Longships Christening 2014
- Viking Longships Christening 2015
- Viking Vidar – Grand European Tour
- Upcoming & Past Cruises
- About FTDC
Costa Rica, Panama and a New Safari Voyager
Costa Rica is going through a cold snap.
Of course, ‘cold snap’ is relative. Locals are walking through the lobby of the Real Intercontinental San Jose with winter jackets on. I, on the other hand, sat in the lobby with the top button of my shirt open, enjoying an ice-cold Imperial beer; La Cerveza de Costa Rica.
It’s 19°C (66°F) here in San Jose, Costa Rica today. It’s the second time I’ve been here and the first time I haven’t felt like I was melting. I’ve come to the capital of Costa Rica for another cruise through the Panama Canal, this time aboard the small, adventuresome ships of Seattle-based UnCruise Adventures.
Over the next week, UnCruise’s Uncharted Isthmus! Sloths, Monkeys and Mangroves itinerary will take myself and the 61 other guests aboard the Safari Voyager on an adventure-filled exploration of both Costa Rica and Panama, with stops in some of the best national parks, wildlife refuges, and conservation areas, plus a full transit to the Caribbean Sea via the Panama Canal.
Don’t expect big cities and shopping opportunities: this voyage is all about discovering the natural wonders of Costa Rica and Panama. In fact, with the exception of my pre-cruise stay here in Costa Rica and my post-cruise overnight in Panama City, the only civilisation we’ll be seeing for much of the week will be the 62 guests and 31 crewmembers onboard the Safari Voyager.
Arriving in Paradise
I flew into San Jose’s Juan Santamaria Airport last night, after connecting through Houston’s Intercontinental Airport. Unless you’re very lucky, you’ll want to plan on arriving a day prior to the cruise as well. UnCruise uses the Real Intercontinental Costa Rica as its pre-cruise and hospitality base in Costa Rica, and it’s worth the peace of mind to stay here overnight.
Juan Santamaria Airport is like many other airport in Central America: controlled chaos. Expect to be baffled by the two landing cards you’ll be handed on the flight down, one of which asks such pertinent questions as, “Have you been given [a] tax exemption in the last six months?” and “Have you been out of [the] country longer than three days?”
However, Customs and Immigration in Costa Rica is quick and friendly. Don’t be scared of the horrific lineup you’ll see (and trust me – you’ll see one), as it moves quite quickly. The immigration agent serving me looked over my paperwork, stamped my passport, handed it back to me and said, ‘Welcome to Costa Rica, Aaron.’
After that, it’s time to pick up your baggage in the small luggage hall. You’ll find (as I did) that porters have probably already picked it up and placed it on the ground beside the carousel, so look there first. They’ll want to put it on a trolley and cart it out for you (ostensibly for a tip in US Dollars or Costa Rican colones), but if you can handle it yourself you’re not obligated to do so.
In baggage claim, a girl with an UnCruise sign crossed me off her list and gave me a bright-green sticker of a leaf to wear; this would help the UnCruise representative outside the terminal find me. And believe me, you’ll need the sticker, because one you exit the terminal, you’ll be assailed with hundreds of people, all holding signs, all looking expectantly at you.
Indeed, the UnCruise rep saw me before I saw her and directed me to wait over in a central meeting area for the rest of the folks from my fight who were also transferring to the InterContinental. Rather than emptying out onto the main street, as most airports do, Juan Santamaria’s arrival area empties out onto a small, square space about the size of a loading dock. It’s controlled chaos at its finest.
Before long, the shuttle came to take a handful of us over to the Intercontinental. Check in was easy and efficient, and it was no issue to add my IHG Rewards number to the reservation. Before long, I was opening the door to my third-floor room, and immediately crawled into bed.
Welcome To The Safari Voyager
Today, UnCruise guests had the morning to relax and enjoy the hotel, or go out and explore San Jose. The hotel is located adjacent to a major shipping centre (the “Multiplaza”), but is situated far enough away from downtown San Jose that you’ll need to take a taxi if you want to go exploring.
UnCruise sets up a hospitality desk in the InterContinental, which opened at 9:00 am. You can visit them any time in the morning to check in for your cruise and drop your luggage off. Be sure to double-check when you need to have your luggage tagged, as it travels to the ship on a separate truck. There is also a mandatory afternoon meeting that all guests must attend, but in typical UnCruise style, it’s fun, friendly, and informative.
After a relaxing afternoon at the hotel, UnCruise transferred us to Puerto Caldera, where the Safari Voyager was waiting.
I sailed aboard the Safari Voyager three years ago, on an expedition to the Sea of Cortes. It was a wonderful cruise, but the ship wasn’t quite ready for prime-time. UnCruise had recently acquired her from another operator and, while the company had done its best, her previous owners had run her hard. She was dinged up both inside and out, and lacked many of the promised features, like iPod docking stations and flat-panel television screens. She also had some mechanical defects that were creating issues behind the scenes.
The Safari Voyager I embarked on today is so different that I barely recognized her. On the outside, she’s the same. On the inside, there is a world of difference.
UnCruise spent millions of dollars last year refitting Safari Voyager for this new Costa Rica itinerary. It stripped her down to the steel and rebuilt her from the ground up. Some of the changes were technical in nature, like the addition of a brand-new galley, reconfigured mooring and anchor systems for the Panama Canal; new radars, and a navigational bridge that was gutted and modernized with the latest equipment – right down to the windscreen wipers and running lights.
If you never sailed aboard Safari Voyager before her refit, you’ll find lots to like about this contemporary ship. If you did sail Safari Voyager, your jaw is going to drop: everything, down to the carpets, has been completely changed out.
Last time, I had Commander Stateroom 217 to myself. This time, I’m across the hall, in Commander Stateroom 218. It’s a small, oceanview room with two beds (convertible to a queen); a writing desk; and an en-suite bathroom. And as I walked in, the closet and the desk are the only two things that were here before. Everything else is brand-new.
Like all staterooms aboard the Safari Voyager, my stateroom features: a new window to replace the old two-pane variety that looked like it came out of a motorhome; new blinds; new lighting, both ceiling and accent; new beds; new carpeting; new ceiling panels; new in-room audio; a flat-panel TV/DVD player combo; more electrical outlets (five in total; six if you unplug the clock radio); REAL air conditioning (the old Safari Voyager featured a lethargic fan and plenty of finger-crossing); and a bathroom with a new toilet, new lighting, and new showerhead. It’s still a weird, oddly cold space, but it’s a gigantic shower for a ship of this size, and it looks spotless.
A look around my stateroom:
I can’t say enough positive things about how well this refit came off. UnCruise paid close attention to what needed fixing on this ship, and the company spent the money to do it right. That should earn it brownie points in anyone’s book.
What hasn’t changed though – and what didn’t need changing – is UnCruise’s amazing crew, who are adept at making you feel instantly at home. I recognized Hotel Manager Tim from onboard the S.S. Legacy a few years ago, along with bartender Danny, and a few other folks from my past trips on the Safari Voyager and Safari Endeavour in Alaska.
After being escorted to our cabins and shown around, it was up to the Lounge -also beautifully redone – for cocktail hour and our Welcome Aboard briefing. Most beverages are complimentary here onboard the Safari Voyager, including beer, wine and spirits. A selection of top-shelf brands are available for purchase at an additional cost, but there’s little reason to do so unless you’re curious or a connoisseur – or both. Local beers and spirits are offered up whenever possible, and the ship boasts an impressive selection of Central American rums.
After the briefing, it was down to the Restaurant on Deck 1 for dinner. Meals are typically taken at a set time each day, although seating is always open. In typical UnCruise fashion, three different choices were offered – steak, fish and a vegetarian portobello mushroom – served with roasted potatoes and asparagus. A starter salad was offered along with fresh bread, complimentary wine, and dessert.
Allergies and dietary restrictions are handled with surprising ease for a ship of this size; tonight’s starter salad came with almonds on it, and my waitress fetched one without nuts when she learned I had a nut allergy.
After dinner, we returned to the lounge for our expedition briefing on the day to come. We were given the choice of three separate hikes that we can enjoy tomorrow morning, each with its own difficulty level. Our Expedition Team then came around the room to ask us which one we’d like to sign up for, and provided us with information on what to expect from our Zodiac landings (all water), and how to safely enjoy our time ashore.
I’ve only been onboard for a few hours now, but UnCruise has lost none of its personal touch and infectious enthusiasm for the world that we live in. The line has consistently impressed me with its adventures in Alaska, the Sea of Cortes, and on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, and I can’t wait to see what they can do here in Costa Rica!
Safari Voyager - Costa Rica & Panama
|Day 1||Arrival in San Jose, Costa Rica & Embarkation in Puerto Caldera|
|Day 2||Manuel Antonio National Park, CR|
|Day 3||Curu National Park, CR|
|Day 4||Oso Peninsula, CR|
|Day 5||Golfo Dulce & Golfito, CR|
|Day 6||Isla de Coiba, Panama|
|Day 7||Transiting the Panama Canal|
|Day 8||Disembarkation, post-cruise Panama City stay and recap.|
- September 2018
- August 2018
- July 2018
- June 2018
- May 2018
- April 2018
- March 2018
- February 2018
- January 2018
- December 2017
- November 2017
- October 2017
- September 2017
- August 2017
- July 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
- April 2017
- March 2017
- February 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- November 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- March 2016
- February 2016
- January 2016
- December 2015
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009