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Cruise Prompts Costa Rica Re-visit

Playa Potrero-2

One of the nice things about cruising is that when you stop in a country for the first time, it gives you a sense of whether you might like to go back. A taster, as it were.

Graven&TeaganIt happened to us with Costa Rica.

While cruising on the Norwegian Sun, we first visited Costa Rica when the ship made a port stop at Puntarenas, on the Gulf of Nicola and about 60 miles due west of San Jose (the capital). While our visit was typically short — cruise stops seldom exceed eight hours — we made a mental note that this was a country we’d like to see again.

Last week, we did….but we’d be lying if we didn’t admit a little coaxing from a cute 4-year-old granddaughter had something to do with it, too.

We went to a part of the country (Playa Potrero, whose residents include our two new best friends, Walter and Graven), to a place unlikely to ever see a cruise ship, unless it’s with high-powered binoculars as one passes in the waters of the Pacific. It’s beach country, in the north-west area known as Guanacaste. If you’ve never heard of Playa Tamarindo and Playa Coco and Playa Grande, get ready to…judging by the number of expats who have already discovered it.

While Costa Rica typically has — like most tropical countries — a rainy season, this part of the country does not. Well, okay, it gets Version 2less rain. In the winter (December to May), it gets almost no rain. In fact, the green landscape turns brown and locals call it a desert, and not because of its sandy beaches.

It’s a long drive from San Jose or Puntarenas. Mind you, sometimes it’s a long drive from village to village in this welcoming tourist destination. You get there by flying to Liberia (not that one!) and driving for roughly an hour. A growing number of airlines now include Liberia on flight schedules.

However, with our passion for boating, we needed more than beaches.

That’s where Walter and Graven come into the picture. They were co-captains of our “ship” — probably an 18-foot skiff that took us (our family of five) snorkeling. Since we’d never gone snorkeling from a cruise ship, it was a welcome alternative as experiences go, but not nearly as welcoming as Walter (the pineapple man), Graven (sharing a thumbs-up) and assorted full-time residents who reap the benefits of the tourist industry.

Without the Norwegian Sun, we may never have met.

Version 2

In the news…

• Tiffany’s boutique opens in Central Park on Oasis of the Seas
• Crystal Symphony makes maiden call at Santo Domingo
• TV’s Jeff Corwin on Panama Canal cruise with Windstar

Today at portsandbows.comArles, Avignon get A’s in France


Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas
9 nights
December 10, 2015
Tampa (return): Key West, St. Maarten, San Juan, Labadee
Oceanview: $739
Cost per day: $82
www.royalcaribbean.com

Friday File: Beaches of Beauty

If you think a beach is a beach is a beach, which people who don’t lie in the sun might feel inclined to do, then you haven’t met our son-in-law. He will structure his family’s vacations around the quality of the beaches. Prompted by his discriminating eye, we’re re-visiting some that we’ve at least seen in our cruise travels…

TulumTULUM: This picture is taken from the ancient ruins of Tulum, and its accompanying beach provides an alternative for cranky teenagers (or adults) more interested in sunshine than sun gods.

GREAT STIRRUP CayGREAT STIRRUP CAY: This is Norwegian’s private island, which means this is Norwegian’s private beach, available only to its cruise-ship passengers. It has everything you might want, especially people.

BarcelonaBARCELONA: You don’t expect to find palm trees, or beaches like this, in Barcelona…at least we didn’t. The lack of beach-goers had more to do with the time of year (May) than the quality of sand. 

Huatulco-2HUATULCO: A nice spot frequented mostly by the locals who live near this pretty place in southern Mexico, and just a short cab ride from the Celebrity Millennium…well worth whatever it cost us.

St. MaartenST. MAARTEN: The bar from which this shot is taken does a booming business all day, thanks mostly to cruise tourists from Philipsburg, 20 minutes away from being this close to landing jets.

Miami
MIAMI: There are places that lay claim to being the most famous of beaches, but is there one better known than Miami Beach (okay, Fort Lauderdale) and its view for passing cruise ships?
ArubaARUBA: White sandy beaches that stretch seven miles along this tiny island, flanked by some of the most expensive hotels you’ll find. The good news is the beaches are all public — it’s the law.
Costa MayaCOSTA MAYA: A popular Mexican port still recovering from Hurricane Dean (2007) doesn’t have a lot to do within walking distance of the ship, but this beach near the pier is a hotspot for passengers.

Today at portsandbows.com: Koningsdam coming to America

Royal Princess
14 nights
April 25, 2015
Fort LauderdalePonta DelgadaCorkRotterdamBrusselsSouthampton
Inside: $696
Cost per day: $49
www.princess.com

 

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