Costa Rica Temptress trip report

This Thanksgiving week we spent untraditionally.

We (myself, my husband George and 12 year old Michael) took 7 night Temptress Adventure Cruise in Costa Rica.

Temptress is not your regular cruise. There is no glitz, casino, midnight buffets and Las Vegas style show. It is an expedition type cruise. It allows you, instead of large crowded ports with shopping, visit remote places, rainforests and nature reserves (some of them privately owned). All tours are walks of different difficulty – easy, medium, hard and are included in the price. Naturalist guides spend all time with guests and available to answer any questions. Some of the tours included kayaking or dinghy ride on the river. Because of small size of the boat and flat bottom, it comes close to the shore and anchors at places where are very few people or no people at all. Passengers are transported back and forth on dinghies (also called zodiacs). Although the cruise defined as a soft adventure, it is by no means roughing out. Food was very good, and the end of the walks we were always coming to the beach where white plastic chairs, a table with snacks and cold drinks magically appeared out of nowhere. The dinghies were always available to transfer people back and forth and the crew attention and service was the best I’ve ever seen.

Arrival / Departure.

Air. We arrived to San Jose, capital of Costa Rica early morning on red-eye (but non-stop) flight on Lacsa (member of Groupo Taca) airline from JFK. The flight was uneventful but check-in was very slow, whatever in other USA airlines is done on computers, for some reason it was done manually (boarding passes written by hand). We also assigned seats in advice, but whatever seats were in Lacsa airline in the computer res system for some reason did not show up at check-in counter. Our seats were re-assigned and they could not even assign return seats at check-in time. We had to do seats assignments on the return day and of course, at that time it was not three seats together. Being experienced travelers, and we saw that check-in personnel tried hard to find us seats together, but they could not do much, so we did not fuss about it. Fortunately, some passengers exchanged seats with us once on board. But this is just to be aware with Lacsa – that your assigned seats disappear! As I said, the flight was fine and food was just airline regular food (breakfast at 3am). Flight arrived at 6am.

Hotel. Temptress picks up passengers in three locations: from 2 and 3 pm. First Melia Corobici, next Marriott and last, Airport. Drop off in reverse order. Since we had time from 6am until 2pm, we booked a day room ($50) at Melia Corobici, walking distance from downtown (about 30 min). It is fine business hotel. Marriott is much nicer, has character, located at coffee plantation but is three times expensive ($150). Corobici served our needs to get some sleep and refresh ourselves. They have 2 very good restaurants, a pool, a spa, decent gift shop and a internet room. We had an excellent lunch for only $25 for 3 people (no alcohol), rested and at 2pm came down where we, another family and one more couple were picked up by Temptress staff

Ship embarkation.

We were one of the first to be picked up at Corobici hotel, other passengers were picked up at Marriott and airport and we are on the way to port of departure Puntarenas, 2 hours away from San Jose. It is a small town, described in some guides as quaint, but nothing to write home about. J

It was very easy, they just took our passports, and we were shown to our rooms. The luggage was brought in shortly. First shock was when everybody tried to find the key and we found out that the rooms do not lock from outside! Only inside. They do, however provide safe for valuables and who wished, left their valuables at the safe. However, we appreciated later convenience of easy access to the rooms and at least at our cruise there were no problems and nothing was missing. I do advice against bringing expensive jewelry or a lots of cash J but people had expensive cameras, and nothing missed.

We had a arrival cocktail party where people get acquainted with each other on the deck, then there was a crew introduction with safety briefing and later on we attended dinner.

The Ship and the Crew.

The ship is a smaller size (63 passengers capacity), and it is designed to go to places closer to the shore. The ship was very well maintained, very clean and efficiently run. It is by no means luxury liner, but very comfortable. The Temptress took us to such places which was either impossible or very hard to get by land or by large ship. Temptress was coming close to the shore, and they transported passengers on large (8 people each dinghies). We used them as our taxis. The dinghy crew were excellent, very experienced, they new how to launch the boat in the surf, were very attentive watching people and aiding them when help was needed. They did not mind doing extra trips if somebody forgot some things on the beach or just people were changing their mind going back and forth. The dinghies were also used for waterskiing, and monitoring guests in kayaks or snorkeling. They were especially good with kids and unobtrusively following them in dinghies while kayaking.

All cabins are small (120 sq ft) and differ only the location. The most expensive are on the top deck with best view. There are only double cabins, for triple they add a mattress on the floor. I did not really like the idea of the mattress, but since there were enough empty cabins, we got one extra cabin (what is called on other cruise line free upgrade). Otherwise, I do not imagine how three people can fit in a small cabin.

As parents, we felt that kids were constantly supervised, and we felt comfortable when Michael was going with a group of other people on shore or kayaking without us. It was really nice to being relax on the deck while kids kayaked around the boat. I’ve heard occasional yell from Michael: "Arthur! I am done! Get me in please!" And Arthur, the divemaster, would pull the kayak into boat’s platform. Jose and Giovanni, were our naturalist guides who actually spent all time with us – everywhere. They finished the trip by dropping the last passenger back at Corobici a week later (us). They were excellent, very well educated, informed people with the great sense of humor. Good news what that we had only 23 people (and the ship’s full capacity is 63), so with ratio of staff almost 1:1 we had personal service and attention.

Barmen Johnny was 20 year old, but excellent, kept his bar spotless clean and remembered passengers preferences. Michael had time of the his life, since Johnny let him in the bar to "work", learned how to make drinks, washed the glasses and served drinks. We had to interfere and forbid passengers tip him. J The captain let everybody in the bridge, explained everything and let kids and adults to navigate the boat. The atmosphere was very informal and friendly. We’ve felt that the crew works as a team and all you had to do is to ask any team member for something, they never refused and get you what you needed. The dinghy crew particularly paid attention to safety of passengers, always watched for each step and helped when you needed it (sometimes when the surf was rough, it was hard to board dinghy).

Nice touches:

Laundry service included in the price and available twice a week. There is a limit of 5 items per person. So do not bring a lot’s of clothes. The dressy clothes are not needed. Shoe cleaning service. After walks, leave your muddy shoes at the stern of the ship as you come in. Next morning, they are, clean and dry and warm, waiting for you on the stairs. Dryer is available on the ship all the time. People used them to dry their swimming suits Bottled water is available at the water dispenser. For walks, bottles of water and fruit were offered to take.

Clientele

Due to the small size of the ship, the passengers on our trip bonded well. We had 27 people instead of 63 and that made a difference. We were told when the ship is full, they have an extra guide and crew. The people were all well educated, well traveled, interesting to be with and most of them seemed to be middle and high income bracket. The ages varied from 40 to late 60s. Most of the guests never been on a large ships or, if been once, did not like it. They prefer smaller type ships or expedition cruising. Not a bingo or casino crowd. All of them were fun, curious, explorer type people who are interested in nature. You have to be more or less physically fit to use dinghies (all landings are wet) and be able to do easy walks. The ship is not handicapped accessible.

Families. It is an excellent trip for kids 8 years old and older. Michael is 12 and two other children were 12 and 8. All of them enjoyed the trip. As I said before, they were admitted into captains bridge, "worked" in the bar, kayaked, water-skied, snorkeled. Instruction, supervision and help and help was always available. The ship might be boring and not safe for younger kids. The absence of TV in the cabin (later on kids got hold of videos and monopolized the only TV in the library, but it is up to the crew to take that key away!) and a presence of naturalist guides and lectures provides truly educational and enriching experience.

Food

The food was very good, not elaborate, but well prepared and presented.

No huge buffets, but usually 3-4 choices for dinner, always one vegetarian choice, a lots of vegetables and tropical fruit. Dinner was 3 nights out of 7 buffet style (arrival buffet, last night BBQ on the deck, and a dinner with bonfire on the beach). The rest were sit-down dinners, where you make a choice for your meal in advance most of the time. The dress is casual, one seating and people sit with anybody they want. At the walks, there were usually refreshments and drinks after we finished the walk and came to the beach. Drinks were included in the price.

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Day by Day excursions and activities.

There were usually 2 walks in the morning, varying from easy to medium. Morning walks leave early, therefore wake up call is at 6am, full breakfast 6am-7am, continental breakfast available at 5:30am. The crew wakes you up by brisk knock at the door. They will knock until hear the answer (any answer!).

Saturday. Arrival, check-in, welcome cocktails and drinks. Passengers get acquainted. Later, crew presentation followed by safety/orientation. Then was buffet dinner and orientation briefing for next day. The passengers who wanted to check-in valuables into safe, did it after dinner.

Sunday.

In the morning, we visited Curu Biological Reserve which is located in a tropical dry forest. This is a private reserve owned by Costa Rica Family. There were two easy walks offered 2.5 hours each exploring different trails. We landed at the beach and there is a little picnic shaded area. People who did not want to walk on the tour, just relaxed at the area. An hour later, crew delivered drinks and snacks so when two groups returned from the trail, refreshments were ready.

What was special at this tour that the people who own Curu reserve, showed us their farm. They pick up wounded and orphaned animals and raise them. We saw birds, blind pig and a monkey. They monkey (name is Pepe) was rescued from the spotters – the parents monkeys were killed and the baby was supposed to be sold as a pet. Therefore, Pepe was saved and raised on the farm. He behaves as much as any pet (dog). He choose to go with us on the tour and followed our group all the time. When we rested, he wanted his tummy and back to be scratched and enjoyed our company for the whole duration of the tour. When we intersected in one of the trails with our other group, they asked us if we’ve seen any monkeys. We proudly displayed Pepe and said that we have our own monkey guide J . At the narrow paths, Pepe moved along trees on the top. He used his tail as an anchor and moved along the tree tops. Great walk for Mike, who had his pictures taken. We returned later to our picnic spot where Pepe’s presence became somewhat an annoyance since he was stealing people’s drinks and food. He eats exactly like people, with both hands!  

We went to the Curu’s little shop to buy t-shirts with Pepe’s image and the owners told us that this morning Pepe "redecorated" everything since he was going after the toy monkeys. All t-shirts were messed up and in one pile and the poor lady was re-arranging them. We bought a t-shirt with Pepe’s picture and returned back to the ship.

Lunch was served at the sundeck. The Curu owners were also invited for a lunch and their relative Michele (from CA, visiting Costa Rica), joined our group for the rest of the trip. We embarked for a 30 minute sailing for our next destination – Tortuga Island which is a popular destination and offers calm waters and nice beach, perfect for swimming. At the time of sail, there was a safety drill and after that, a lecture for our next destination, Corcovado National Park.

Arrived Tortuga and disembarked at the beach. We are getting used to our dinghies. There was a canopy ride at the beach. $10 fee. The riders are wearing the harness, go up the platform on the top of the tree and slide down on the string. Michael did it. . Women and children got to slide down first. J

We were standing at the arrival point. Screams announced approaching riders, we took pictures.

After that, our group spend time on the beach, kayaking and swimming. I took the 1.5 hour walk on the island (medium difficulty), which ends up at the lookout with a great view. After that, we had a BBQ grill dinner and bonfire on the beach. This island does not have a bathroom, but the dinghies were available all the time going back and forth to the ship (few minutes). Great casual dinner, bonfire, swimming in the dark, sunset. I want to add that the crew was very good watching the people and especially kids. When Mike said that he wants to wash the sand off in the water and went there, I could not see him in the dark and I suddenly noticed the flashlight pointed on him – that was Manfred, our director, keeping Mike in sight. Back to the ship, few drinks and early to bed. Since everybody was up from 6am, nobody hang out late. At 6:30pm, Temptress sailed to Corcovado National Park – 10 hours cruising time, many people took dramamine because ship rocked.

Monday. Corcovado National Park

The conservation area, an early morning bird watching hike. The Scarlet Macaws are the most spectacular, as they loudly announce their arrival with high pitched squawks. We saw toucans, hopping through the trees, with its outlandish yellow bill. There were two walks, easy and hard. We took an easy walk along the beach. We took a swim in the refreshing river, and finished the trip on the beach. Returned to the ship.

Swimming is not safe in that area, but the beach is spectacular.

At the ship, we found that second group did not fare well (hard hike). Two people fell down, one hurt wrist (luckily, no damage). Another fell down and grabbed a tree which happened to be a prickled palm – the palm with prickles. It took awhile to remove all splinters from the arm. Another reminder from our guides – follow me, do not leave the group and do not touch anything unless you look at it. Actually, all poisonous trees were pointed to us by our guides, Jose and Giovanni. I really do not recommend to anyone to go to the rainforest alone. We also saw snakes.

This afternoon, there was swimming and kayaking from the platform and around the ship.

In the later afternoon, we are off for a sail to Panama’s Island, Coiba for a day of "rest" – snorkeling, swimming. As every day, there were cocktails at 5pm, The dinner was a Captain Dinner that night – no need to dress up. The only similarity with large cruise ships was baked Alaska for desert and the crew brought it in, the lights were off to showcase it.

Tuesday. Coiba Island, Panama.

We woke up with a view of a little Robinson Cruso like island between a rock around it, white sand, some vegetation bushes and one tall palm. The second biggest island of the American Pacific Ocean, Coiba has one of the most extensive, healthiest and oldest coral reefs in Central America and offers excellent deep sea fishing as well as diving. Its abundant sea life includes different species of whales and colorful fish, and its lush tropical rain forests are home to spectacular species, including the red and green macaw. As for our schedule, it was somewhat relaxed that day. The embarkation did not start until 9 am and we had few hours to sleep late. There was a snorkeling and diving briefing and distribution of snorkeling equipment.

The snorkeling was good, we saw some colorful fish, few of the very large. The dolphins came close to the shore and the interested passengers got into dinghy to get close to the dolphins.

We had bad luck at this island because George lost a wedding ring which slipped from his finger. Oh well, Panama got richer! We will remember this island! Other then that, nice relaxing beach day. The cool drinks were brought in, towels and chairs.

After lunch back on the ship, some people went diving with a divemaster, other chose return on the island snorkeling or just stayed on the ship. At 4pm, the ship sailed to our next destination, Golfo Dulce. We had Golfo Dulce briefing and a dinner. The sea was a little bit rough so at that night only half of the people made for dinner…

Wednesday. Golfo Dulce/Golfito

Golfito is located in the Golfo Dulce, a large Pacific Ocean gulf just west of Panama. The city is actually two towns strung out along a coastal road with a backdrop of steep thickly forested hills, which makes Golfito the National Wildlife Refuge. The southern part of town is where hotels, restaurants are located. The northern part was the old United Fruit Company headquarters, with large North-American style houses and the airstrip of Golfo Dulce.

This morning we visit McAllisters, an American couple, who bought a property here 20 years ago , accessible only by boat from Golfito, it is a rocky beach there and a rainforest. The McAllisters built Casa Orquideas - a botanical garden and conduct their tours there. We saw, smelled, tasted a touch a wide variety of beautiful ornamental plants, palms, cycads, we smelled the flowers which are used in Chanel perfume. Saw orchids, fruit trees and other edible plants that thrive at the tropics.

After that, we went back on board. Michael water-skied with Arthur, divemaster from the dinghy.

After lunch, the ship sailed to the other reserve, Cana Blanca, also owned by another American Couple, the Crews. They gave up a rat-race life in California, bought a land in a rainforest, with a fine black sand beachfront, built a main house and 3 bungalows and use them as a retreat. All meals and activities provided. The house has only supported walls, but they are open – no glass, no screens. They say there are no bugs. Incredible. They had a pet – scarlet Maccaw.  

We tour Cana Blanca, have refreshments and go back on the ship. Some 4 new passenger arrive to the ship for a short 3 day cruise segment. Ships sails back to Golfito. Cocktails, dinner. After dinner, surprise! There are three birthdays including Captain’s in one day! The crew presented 3 cakes and we had a triple birthday party! After that, the band from Golfito arrived and they sang Costa Rica songs.

Thursday. Corcovado/Drake Bay

This 100,000-acre sanctuary of biological diversity dominates the Osa Peninsula, in the southwest corner of the country. The park's thirteen habitats are characterized by an abundance of endangered wildlife including all four species of monkeys and the six species of wild cats found in the country. Giant trees draped with vines and ephypytes, supported by massive buttress roots, tower over the forest floor. Nearly 300 species of birds live in this magnificent wilderness preserve.

We took medium hike. It was raining, and this time we did not see too many animals and birds. Nevertheless, interesting plants and rain in the rainforest! There was extra tours offered: sport fishing for $300 (up to 4 people) and a horseback riding $35 per person. Because of rain, the picnic on the beach was moved to the ship.

At 1:30pm we sailed for 1 hour towards Drake Bay. In Drake Bay, we visited a remote village, accessible only by boat. They have one store, a school and a medical office where doctor comes once a week. We walked through the village. Our guide Jose pointed a plant which rolls in when you touch it – sensitive plant. Next, we walked through the bridge (Looks like Golden Gate Bridge) along towards the pier at Aguila de Osa Dive Lodge. From the pier we boarded our dinghies (10 people in our group took kayaks) and floated along the Jungle River. We took a swim in the river. The current was very strong. We saw white faced monkeys, sloths, beautiful birds.

After that, we returned to the ship. This evening, Giovanni gave us a lecture on Monteverde forest – his birthplace and where he lives with his family. Interesting place to come next time. We are off to Manuel Antonio National park for the last day of adventure. We are warned that the park has many people (oh, no! and white faced monkeys are very aggressive, they grab food and personal belonging of tourists).

Friday. Manuel Antonio National Park

One of the highlights of the cruise, this park is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It is composed of three long strands of magnificent white sand beach set between an exuberant jungle with hundreds of fascinating plant species and estuaries on one side and the magnificent Pacific Ocean on the other. While hiking through Manuel Antonio's open forest trails you may spot iguanas, squirrel monkeys and lazy three-toed sloths. We spent half a day hiking (we took easy hike), saw sloth, white-faced monkeys and agoutis (rodents). We did encounter some people on the trails.

After lunch back on the ship, we had an afternoon on the beach. The water is murky there and is not good for snorkeling, but the beach is good. Kids and some adults kayaked from the ship, others used dinghies and spent a good afternoon on the beach. Some people took a walk to the town outside of the park (need your hand to get stamped) and used a phone.

After that, we got back to the ship, had cocktails, settled account, packed and attended farewell dinner (BBQ on the deck). The weather was bright and sunny most of the day, sunset was spectacular, and we enjoyed bright stars while dining on the deck. That was the perfect set up to end our adventure. People exchanged emails and addresses.

Saturday. Early wake up, breakfast and we boarded bus to San Jose for a 2 hour trip. We got back to Corobici hotel, refreshed, had a wonderful lunch at Japanese restaurant (best rice we’ve ever tasted in hibachi grill). Then we took a walk to downtown. After a week in quiet wilderness, San Jose looked like polluted, noisy city, horrible traffic. I might be biased, though.. But we were happy to go back to hotel and few hours later took a shuttle to airport where we boarded our non—stop Lacsa flight on a way home.

Few things which we did not like:

This cruise is not recommended for people who can get easily seasick. If you are like me, it can be a little bit rocky first few days, take dramamine (or better yet, some patches), and you will get used to it. On another side, dramamine makes you sleepy. If you are prone to seasickness, you would not enjoy it. Other more contemporary ships have longer kiel (sp?) and computer stabilizers so mostly it is not a problem. It is definitely not a problem on a large ship, but as I said, you cannot compare the expedition cruising to mass market large cruise ships.

The brochure stated there is a one phone on the ship but the phone service can be interrupted. We needed to call once and could not get hold of phone. We ended up going to Captain’s bridge and he let us use his radio for a short time. If you decide to go on a cruise you must assume that you won’t be able to be hold of for 7 days. There were one or two places on shore where you can walk to the phone, but it is inconvenient. But, maybe we are an exception since all other people came to get away from all.

Costa Rica – country and people

After visiting many Caribbean Islands, we were ready for something new. That was our first trip to Central America. Costa Rica is a safe country to visit and a lot’s of places to see. Costa Ricans are well educated (micro chips industry is the leading one), they abolished army in 1940s and spend money on health care and education. They are friendly people and eager to show their country to tourists.

If you have questions, feel free to Email, will be happy to  reply.

Disclaimer: this report presents just an opinion of individuals who's been there.... Tastes Differ... 

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