Windstar Cruise: Panama and Costa Rica

Central America Caribbean
December 13th 2014
Published: January 1st 2015
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Our RouteOur RouteOur Route

We started in Colon, Panama and ended in Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica
We just returned from a 7 day cruise through Panama and Costa Rica. Here's what happened

The Cruise

First a little bit about our yacht, Wind Spirit, and Windstar Cruises.
There were 138 passengers on board and 90 crew members. The one thing that became evident as soon as we boarded was that the service on this cruise adventure would be second to none. Within 24 hours they knew our names, where we were from, what we liked to drink and when (i.e beer in the afternoon, mojitos at cocktail hour, wine with dinner). There was never trouble finding a deck chair and never a wait for the dining room. Dinner was at any time you liked (no seating times) and you could sit with whomever you chose (alone or with your new found friends). Because the number of passengers is so small the ambiance on board is very festive, friendly and fun. We made friends from New Jersey, California, Florida, Scotland, Germany, Texas and Toronto. The attitude was relaxed and there was never any pressure to participate in on-board activities like on the larger cruise lines.

Our cabin was at the back of the boat (#102) and on the 1st level. It was pretty cool to be able to look out our port hole windows (no balconies on these yachts) and see the sea whizzing by outside. At times we could actually hear the water lapping up against the boat. The room was well laid out, comfortable and more spacious than we expected. We had a lot of fun with our cabin steward, Anang. He would leave us a new towel animal everyday when he made up our room and we would re-position him in to a "new scene" for him to find when he came in for our turn-down service in the evening. The dog would be found reading an investment magazine, the bat watching a DVD wearing headphones, the monkey was zip-lining. It was a fun game to play.

Most of our ports had what were called "wet landings." That meant were were transferred from the yacht to a beach (no piers here) by zodiac. When the weather and seas cooperated they would open a platform on the back of the boat where you could go swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding or water skiing. There was a pool on board (the cruise director called it an
Wind Spirit at SunriseWind Spirit at SunriseWind Spirit at Sunrise

Wind Spirit at Sunrise
olympic-sized bird bath which was an accurate description) and a hot tub. Windstar has an open bridge policy which meant that passengers could actually go in to the bridge and talk to the captain and the officers and ask questions.

The other event you will not want to miss as you leave every port is Windstars Signature Sail Aways. The passengers, crew and officers gather on the decks while the sails are unfurled (sails are all operated by hydraulics) one by one and the
">theme from "1492: Conquest of Paradise" plays over the speakers. It's cheesy, magical and festive all at the same time.


Our trip started with a night in Panama City. This city was not what we were expecting (it's modern and cosmopolitan). It's filled with skyscrapers, luxury sports cars, banks, and friendly people. We didn't have much time to explore, unfortunately, but we did have an opportunity to take a lengthy stroll on their waterfront boardwalk before making our way to the port. We boarded our yacht in Colon and spent the first night anchored not far from our entry in to the Panama Canal. We traveled through the canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific, which is north
Wind Spirit at SunriseWind Spirit at SunriseWind Spirit at Sunrise
to south. Yes it is.

The Canal

Traversing the canal was our first full day on board and this took pretty much all day. Windstar had brought a guide on board who explained the history and operations of the canal over the PA system throughout the day. We were transiting along side large freight ships. We had to time our exit out of the canal and in to the Pacific for low tide as Wind Spirit's mast would be too tall to fit under the Bridge of the Americas. As it was we only had 4 feet of clearance to get under the bridge. We all stood on deck, looking up, some holding our breath until we passed beneath it. Pretty cool stuff!

Isla Coiba

Windstar offers a "private event" on all of their cruise interaries. Ours was a beach party on the Panamanian island of Coiba. Isla Coiba is a former penal colony (the prison closed in 2004) and has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site because of it's biodiversity. We did take advantage of a guided hike offered by Windstar's on-board naturalist, Eddie, and saw Capuchin monkeys and heard Howler monkeys in the distance. Windstar
Wind SpiritWind SpiritWind Spirit
knows how to throw a BBQ. The crew took care of everything. It's amazing to think that they managed to set up BBQs, a bar, seating and serving areas....remember....most of our landings were wet ones. The crew had to bring all of this to shore by zodiac! It really was an incredible feat. There was snorkeling in the bay, plenty of paddle boards and beach toys, and opposite the bay (less than 100 meters from the party) lived 'Tito' (a very large Crocodile). Tito didn't make an appearance on our visit and everyone made it back to the boat safely.

Costa Rica

We had 3 stops in Costa Rica: Puerto Jimenez, Bahia Drake and Quepos. Not one of them disappointed. All of them were small towns (some only villages, really) and offered opportunities to visit their national parks (Corcovado, Manuel Antonio) where we could see monkeys, sloths, birds, bugs, marine life and all things rain forest.

In Puerto Jimenez we opted to just go ashore without any planned itinerary. The "town" consisted of few dirt roads (no sidewalks), one paved 'main' street, a grassy air strip and a soccer field. There were a few shops and cafes. We
Fun with Towel AnimalsFun with Towel AnimalsFun with Towel Animals

Fun with towel animals
walked the town (hoping to see scarlet macaws but that was not to be) and then sat in a bar on the beach where there was free wi-fi and cheap beer. We were joined by another couple from our cruise and had a great afternoon.

Bahia Drake was likely our most remote port on this trip. We booked a private excursion with a few other passengers we had met in an online forum. This excursion was a gem! Our Costa Rican guide, Carlos (who did the whole hike in his bare feet), took us to the Serena Ranger station in Corcovado National Park. We saw Capuchin and Spider monkeys, spiders, a sleeping Tapir, a Bull shark, birds, lizards and a whole city of Hermit crabs. There were only 7 of us on this hike and we had an awesome day together.

In Quepos we managed to squeeze 2 shore excursions in one day. In the morning we went on a guided walk through Manuel Antonio National Park and the wildlife did not disappoint. This park is very busy and much less remote than Corcovado. But the wildlife was awesome. it is definitely worth it to go with a guide as it
Beach Corcovado National ParkBeach Corcovado National ParkBeach Corcovado National Park

Beach Corcovado National Park Bahia Drake, Costa Rica
would be very difficult to spot many of the critters on your own. In Manuel Antonio we once again saw Capuchin and Spider monkeys, two and three toed sloth, bats, a snake, spiders and more birds, some raccoon and a stick bug.

After our walk we made a quick zodiac trip back to the yacht to have lunch before we headed back to shore to go zip-lining. The zip-lining was a blast, there were 10 cables in total; some above the rain forest canopy and some through the trees. The longest was 1500 metres and highest was 200 metres. It took us about 2 hours to complete the circuit. Needless to say...this got the adrenalin running but didn't offer much opportunity to see any wildlife while whizzing above and through the trees. The operators of the zip-lines were professional and made sure everyone had a good time (with nick-names like 'Funky Monkey', who wouldn't).

At the end of our cruise we disembarked in Puerto Caldera and headed straight to San Jose for a night before our flight home. In San Jose we did go in to town for a bite to eat and a little shopping. The city was
The LoungeThe LoungeThe Lounge

Lounge on board Wind Spirit
bustling and festive as it was close to Christmas and a major football (soccer) game was happening for the Costa Rican championship.

To sum it all up = This trip was a pile of fun!

Andra's one-line review of her Windstar experience: "I want to do it again. Tomorrow"

Chris's one-line review of his Windstar experience: "Arrr matey, come aboard and y'll drown yer sorrows in a pint an adventure"

Additional photos below
Photos: 27, Displayed: 27



Amphora is the dining room on board Wind Spirit
The Panama CanalThe Panama Canal
The Panama Canal
Capuchin MonkeyCapuchin Monkey
Capuchin Monkey
Hot tub and poolHot tub and pool
Hot tub and pool
Aft DeckAft Deck
Aft Deck

Aft Deck on Wind Spirit
Crazy Fool Zip LiningCrazy Fool Zip Lining
Crazy Fool Zip Lining

Quepos, Costa Rica
Holy Crap!Holy Crap!
Holy Crap!

Andra zip lining above the canopy, Quepos, Costa Rica
Zip Line AdventureZip Line Adventure
Zip Line Adventure

Quepos, Costa Rica
Tout le Gang at CorcovadoTout le Gang at Corcovado
Tout le Gang at Corcovado

Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
Sleeping TapirSleeping Tapir
Sleeping Tapir

Sleeping Tapir at Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
Spider MonkeysSpider Monkeys
Spider Monkeys

SpiderMonkeys at Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
Spider MonkeySpider Monkey
Spider Monkey

Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

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