Costa Rica & Panama with Cruise West

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My husband and I enjoyed a tour of Costa Rica and Panama, Nov. 6-15, ’03, with Cruise West (2401 Fourth Ave., Ste. 700, Seattle, WA 98121; phone 800/426-7702 or visit www.cruisewest.com).

We decided to fly to San José, Costa Rica, and spend a few days before joining the cruise. We prefer to stay in accommodations more appropriate for the country we are visiting and avoid “Americanized” hotels, which in the case of San José were destination hotels far removed from the center of the Old City. We enjoy staying in a “local” hotel near the historic parts of a city and where shopping and sightseeing can be accomplished on our own or on day trips arranged by the hotel.

We chose Hotel Britannia (Calle 3, Avenida 9 y 11, Barrio Amon, San José, Costa Rica; in the U.S., call 800/263-2618 or visit www.hotelbritanniacostarica.com) and could not have been more pleased.

The hotel is a converted Victorian mansion. Our room, No. 9, was large and airy, with two beds. The walk-in closet was spacious and the private bath large, immaculate and completely tiled. We paid $283 for three nights.

We chose to eat in the hotel restaurant, The Cellar, the three nights we were there and were delighted at the friendly, considerate service as well as the excellent food. Because I have a number of severe food allergies, I especially appreciated the kindness of the chef and restaurant staff, who conspired to keep me out of dietary trouble.

Dinners ranged from $57 to $74 for the two of us and included two wonderful local beers for my husband and at least two bottles of mineral water for me. We were not charged extra for the dietary accommodations. Breakfasts, again for two, averaged $15.

When arranging tours with the hotel concierge, I whispered to my husband that I thought the four-in-one tour would be a wonderful way to spend my birthday. When we returned to the hotel after our all-day tour, we found that the chef, waiter and office staff had put together a special dinner and celebration for my birthday! There were candles and flowers, and the chef had even baked a scrumptious cake! We can’t recommend the Hotel Britannia more highly.

Regarding our Cruise West tour, we were extremely pleased with the entire experience. Our excursions into the native cultures were heartwarming, especially the time we spent in the Embera village in the Darien Jungle. We had not expected to see a lively soccer game played between the villagers and the crew of the Pacific Explorer. (It was the first time in seven games that the crew won!)

Our visit to the Kuna Indians was a distinct contrast to our Embera villagers visit. The focus of the Kunas was strictly commercial; for example, in order to take a photograph we had to pay $1 to each person in the picture. On the other hand, the Emberas were pleased to have us take pictures of them. Regardless of the commercial nature of our visit to the Kunas, the molas presented for sale were beautifully colorful and artistic as well as very reasonably priced.

The naturalists aboard the Pacific Explorer were not just well informed, they made the hikes and Zodiac trips fun. Their enthusiasm and love of nature was infectious.

The ship’s chef, Mr. Dixon, is an artist with food, and each meal offered superb soups, sauces and desserts as well as creative, delicious main dishes. Also, he never failed to provide food which was appropriate for my dietary needs. In fact, the entire staff was cheerful and eager to please.

With promotional discounts, and including port taxes, two of us in a main deck cabin paid $4,930. Airfare booked through Cruise West added another $2,530.

We found this Cruise West tour a good way to transit the Panama Canal, and we appreciated the lectures and slide presentations, which made the transit more meaningful.

SYBIL & FLOYD WILKINS
La Jolla, CA

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

My husband and I enjoyed a tour of Costa Rica and Panama, Nov. 6-15, ’03, with Cruise West (2401 Fourth Ave., Ste. 700, Seattle, WA 98121; phone 800/426-7702 or visit www.cruisewest.com).

We decided to fly to San José, Costa Rica, and spend a few days before joining the cruise. We prefer to stay in accommodations more appropriate for the country we are visiting and avoid “Americanized” hotels, which in the case of San José were destination hotels far removed from the center of the Old City. We enjoy staying in a “local” hotel near the historic parts of a city and where shopping and sightseeing can be accomplished on our own or on day trips arranged by the hotel.

We chose Hotel Britannia (Calle 3, Avenida 9 y 11, Barrio Amon, San José, Costa Rica; in the U.S., call 800/263-2618 or visit www.hotelbritanniacostarica.com) and could not have been more pleased.

The hotel is a converted Victorian mansion. Our room, No. 9, was large and airy, with two beds. The walk-in closet was spacious and the private bath large, immaculate and completely tiled. We paid $283 for three nights.

We chose to eat in the hotel restaurant, The Cellar, the three nights we were there and were delighted at the friendly, considerate service as well as the excellent food. Because I have a number of severe food allergies, I especially appreciated the kindness of the chef and restaurant staff, who conspired to keep me out of dietary trouble.

Dinners ranged from $57 to $74 for the two of us and included two wonderful local beers for my husband and at least two bottles of mineral water for me. We were not charged extra for the dietary accommodations. Breakfasts, again for two, averaged $15.

When arranging tours with the hotel concierge, I whispered to my husband that I thought the four-in-one tour would be a wonderful way to spend my birthday. When we returned to the hotel after our all-day tour, we found that the chef, waiter and office staff had put together a special dinner and celebration for my birthday! There were candles and flowers, and the chef had even baked a scrumptious cake! We can’t recommend the Hotel Britannia more highly.

Regarding our Cruise West tour, we were extremely pleased with the entire experience. Our excursions into the native cultures were heartwarming, especially the time we spent in the Embera village in the Darien Jungle. We had not expected to see a lively soccer game played between the villagers and the crew of the Pacific Explorer. (It was the first time in seven games that the crew won!)

Our visit to the Kuna Indians was a distinct contrast to our Embera villagers visit. The focus of the Kunas was strictly commercial; for example, in order to take a photograph we had to pay $1 to each person in the picture. On the other hand, the Emberas were pleased to have us take pictures of them. Regardless of the commercial nature of our visit to the Kunas, the molas presented for sale were beautifully colorful and artistic as well as very reasonably priced.

The naturalists aboard the Pacific Explorer were not just well informed, they made the hikes and Zodiac trips fun. Their enthusiasm and love of nature was infectious.

The ship’s chef, Mr. Dixon, is an artist with food, and each meal offered superb soups, sauces and desserts as well as creative, delicious main dishes. Also, he never failed to provide food which was appropriate for my dietary needs. In fact, the entire staff was cheerful and eager to please.

With promotional discounts, and including port taxes, two of us in a main deck cabin paid $4,930. Airfare booked through Cruise West added another $2,530.

We found this Cruise West tour a good way to transit the Panama Canal, and we appreciated the lectures and slide presentations, which made the transit more meaningful.

SYBIL & FLOYD WILKINS
La Jolla, CA