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Tom Ogg

Age: Various

Occupation:Travel Professionals

Number of Cruises: Many

Cruise Line: Cruise West

Ship: Temptress Explorer

Sailing Date: March 12th, 2001

Itinerary: Costa Rica's National Parks and Beaches

We were a group of 17 travel professionals traveling on board the MV Explorer on a NACTA Seminar at Sea. The entire group participated in this review and it reflects the consensus of the group's experience and thoughts.

I had been looking forward to this cruise, as it is much different than a typical mass-market cruise experience. Temptress has two small ships that carry fewer than 100 passengers each and both ships visit Costa Rica's wealth of national parks, rain forests, islands and spectacular beaches. I love nature and especially the ocean and the idea of visiting pristine areas appeals to me. Temptress Adventure Cruises includes everything for a single price. All of the shore excursions, meals, wine, beer and mixed drinks, equipment….virtually everything is included. While at first blush the pricing seems high, when you consider that there is nothing else to purchase the cruise is very reasonable indeed.

Even more important is that you visit legendary hard-to-get-to places like Corcovado National Forest, Panama's Isla Coiba, Manual Antonio National Park and many more. The experience is wonderful for families (not to young though) soft-adventurers and anyone that wants to explore Costa Rica's fabulous forests, beaches and wildlife. This review is broken into four different parts; The Ship looks at the various facilities on the Explorer, The Cruise is a close look at the day-to-day itinerary as I experienced it, The Shore Excursions offers an explanation of the daily options that are available to the passengers on the Explorer and finally Frequently Asked Questions tries to answer some of the more difficult questions you may have about this cruise. As always, if you have questions that are not answered in this review, please e-mail them to me and I will do my best to answer them and add them to the FAQ section.

Getting to the Ship

This is actually a great story. I was booked on a United Airlines flight from San Diego to Los Angeles and then connecting to a flight to San Jose, Costa Rica stopping in Guatemala City, Guatemala on the way. I had gotten a great airfare from a travel agent in Florida and there wasn't going to be any problem. Unfortunately, the day I was to depart I came down with a severe stomach virus and when it came time to go the airport I was simply unable to make the trip. I had decided that my health was not good enough to try the over-night flight and simply no-showed the flight. The following morning I was feeling better. I called the cruise line to let them know I hadn't made the flight and they were wonderful about it. United on the other hand was anything but wonderful as apparently the ticket was a consolidator ticket. They finally suggested that I immediately go to the airport to see if there was anything that could be done about any reaccommodation on the ticket. I reminded them that I was violently ill. It didn't matter to them. I was able to get the travel agent on the telephone who advised me to call back on Monday, hmmm.

Around noon or so I was feeling well enough to try and make the trip so I started calling for an alternative airfare. I was able to find a one-way fare on American Airlines and booked myself on a 9pm flight connecting to American's code share partner LACSA to San Jose through Guatemala City. Joanie dropped me at the airport and I was able to get on the 8:30pm flight to Los Angeles which left me with an almost 4 hour layover before LACSA's 12:20am departure. There was plenty of time to make sure my bag would be interlined so I checked my bag through to San Jose, Costa Rica with American in San Diego.

I got to L.A. went to the departure gate and waited to board the flight. I was actually feeling quite well now, as it must have been a 24-hour bug that I had. I boarded and endured the 8+-hour flight (including the stop in Guatemala City) and arrived in San Jose happy to get off the airplane and get under way. While I was feeling better I did not sleep on the flight because of the service LACSA offers (3 different meals with the cabin lights on). I felt pretty shabby.

It was the moment I realized that my luggage was not coming that I really felt lousy.

I had arranged to meet two guys in a skiff at the marina in Harradura who were going to take me out to the ship some 20 or so nautical miles away in the Tortuga Islands at 11:30 am (plenty of time to get there under normal circumstances) Because I had to wait for every last piece of luggage to be offloaded, check with the baggage guys at the airport, file a lost baggage claim and then clear customs, I was running late. I finally got into a taxi at 10:30. I offered the taxi driver a handsome tip if he could make it to the marina by 11:30. He was a great guy and said he would try but doubted if we could be there anytime before noon or later. He drove like there was no tomorrow. Passing cars on narrow mountain roads, speeding through villages and generally pushing the envelope all the way down from San Jose. We were almost to Jaco Beach when we turned into the Marriott Hotel and made our way to the marina at about 11:50am.

I was very thankful to see two Temptress Cruises staff there with a 24 ft panga to take me to the ship. I gave the taxi driver a very nice tip and thanked him for his effort feeling as if we had become friends through the ordeal. After boarding the panga for the 40-minute ride to the Tortuga Islands I started to relax. On the way to the ship there were jacks jumping from schools that were being hammered by some unknown species of predator from below. We stopped to watch a 2-meter wide Pacific Manta Ray working the surface of the ocean….I was already loving my Temptress Cruise experience. After about a 40-minute ride we arrived at the beautiful MV Temptress Explorer. I boarded her and was greeted by the Hotel Manager Jose who immediately made me feel at home.

I had broken my own packing rule by not putting the basic essentials of life (bathing suit, hat, sun screen and toiletries) in my carry-on bag and was now going to pay the price.

Hints: I purchased my United Airlines ticket from Prime Travel in Florida at the suggestion of Temptress Cruise Lines. It turned out to be a consolidator ticket that could not be changed by United Airlines and since it was Saturday when I decided to try for the flight I ended up having to purchase a one-way ticket for $671.00 on American Airlines. The $100 or so that I saved by buying the ticket from Prime Travel was lost because I couldn't use the ticket with United Airlines for anything other than the originally booked flight. When I finally got someone on the telephone with Prime Travel on Saturday they told me to call back on Monday. Don't confuse a cheap price with saving money…this error cost me over $500.00. Purchase your ticket from a local travel agent (get their home phone number too) and make sure it is changeable by the airline and that it is not a consolidator ticket unless you want to risk the loss of the amount of the entire ticket if something comes up.

Don't interline your baggage to a foreign carrier on American (or presumably United either) claim it and recheck it yourself.

I would avoid both AA and UA in the future as on the return UA was over 5 hours late and showed little compassion for their passengers. Not that the UA employees were downright rude but they simply didn't concern themselves with anyone's problems created by the delay. I would certainly fly LACSA as their service was friendly with in flight entertainment and excellent hot meals. UA had a half of a cheese sandwich on white bread and a bran muffin along with your choice of orange juice or water…it was kinda like being in prison.

The Ship
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The MV Temptress Explorer is a small ship at only 185 ft. She offers four decks and a crew of 50 wonderful individuals. While the Explorer is only 185 ft (she feels much larger) she can accommodate up to 100 guests in her 50 cabins. She is build for comfort, adventure and fun. She carries two Zodiacs and a 24' open panga and is fully self-sufficient. Her unique swim step stern connects the ship with the ocean in a way that anyone can enjoy a quick dip in the ocean or embark/debark the Zodiacs to make their way to shore.

My Cabin.

The very first thing I noticed about my cabin was the air conditioning. The second I entered my cabin (#209) I felt the satisfaction of a wonderfully air-conditioned cabin. It was as cool and comfortable as anyone could imagine and offered a complete respite from the humidity and heat of Costa Rica's warm climate. The cabin was quite large considering the size of the ship and was actually larger than cabins on most mass-market cruise lines. I would estimate my cabin was around 125 square feet. There was a large picture window that actually opens so you can enjoy fresh air and the breezes of the evening. The window also has drop down drapery that one can lower in the daytime for a nap. There were two quality single beds with excellent bedding that (with the excellent air-conditioning) made for a wonderful night's sleep. There was a nightstand with reading lights between the beds that offered four large drawers for storage.

The closet was ample for two people and there were also 5 large shelves for additional storage. The second shelf from the bottom hid two 110v outlets with enough amps to run my computer and printer at the same time. Across from the shelves was an entry table and large mirror along with a rack for hanging miscellaneous stuff that may not be appropriate for the closet (damp clothes, raincoats etc.) The bathroom was quite large with a full shower that had excellent hot/cold controls, toilet, and a sink with storage cabinet that also offer an 110v outlet for a shaver or other appliance.

All in all, the cabin was as comfortable as most (more than some) cabins on any cruise ship. The unique thing about Temptress Cruises is that they have an "open ship" policy. None of the cabins have locks on their doors (there are dead bolts so that you can have privacy if you want it) so all of the cabins are always unlocked. Because of the air-conditioning many folks left their cameras outside of their cabin in the hallway so they would not cloud up when it came time to take a picture. At no time did anyone in our group feel uncomfortable about leaving their cabins unlocked. I especially enjoyed the freedom from having to remember a room key every time you left your cabin.

Hint: There are no dress up nights on the Explorer, leave your jewelry at home.

The Quetzal Dining Room

This is the main dining room on the Explorer and is the scene of either a sit-down dinner or buffet every night. Seating is not assigned and you are free to sit where and with whom you would like every evening. After the first two or three days of the cruise everyone gets to know everyone reasonably well and there is ample opportunity to develop those relationships you would like to pursue. Sharing a dinner table is one way of breaking the ice as the mood in the dining room is very relaxed and friendly. Everyone dines at the same time as there is only one seating. There is no other option for dinner. Wine flows freely with never empty carafes (both red and white) on each table and bar service is available for those that want it. There is a small wine list (additional money) for folks that want to sample some Chilean wines that the ship offers.

The dining room is also the location for breakfast every morning. A full buffet breakfast is offered from 7 am until approximately 9:30 am and features an excellent selection of food items that will please just about everyone.

The Toucan Lounge

This is also known as "The Lobby" and is the main meeting place for daily activity briefings and other meetings. The lobby is kind of the "catch-all" spot on the ship as this is adjacent to the aft stairwell that leads to the tenders (Zodiacs). It is used as an entertainment area as there is a large screen TV. with VCR and a collection of movies to watch. There is a well-stocked snack counter that offers cookies, chips, some fruit and so on by the television as well. There is an ample number of chairs that are arranged into a theater during each daily briefing when the following day's tours and events are explained and a slide show of the various walks are shown to help folks decide upon which tour to take. The Boutique is also found in the Toucan Lounge as well.

The Boutique

Boutique.jpg (27207 bytes) The Boutique is home to the ship's general store. They offer a good selection of tee shirts, shorts, toiletries and other necessaries. I was able to stock up on all of the necessary items I needed to survive in just one visit to the Boutique and am still wearing my "CREW" tee shirt with pride. The Boutique is only open for 30 minutes or so each day so you must watch the daily schedule to see when you may purchase tee shirts and such from it. It is also home for the Hotel Manager who operates the Boutique and is the place that you check out upon leaving the ship.

The Cacatua (Observation) Lounge

This is a great room to simply relax and read a book or work on a project. It is made up of several comfortable chairs and sofas as well as a snack area that offers chips, cookies, coffee and soft drinks on a self-serve basis. The Observation Lounge also serves as the ship's library and there is a reasonable selection of books on Costa Rica and eco tourism. We used the area for meetings and never found it crowded at any time. It would make a great meeting room for groups that want to schedule meetings and activities during a cruise to Costa Rica.

The Tortuga Bar

This is the main bar on the Explorer and sees quite a bit of action as there are a number of bar stools and a good selection of tables and chairs. The bar is quite relaxed and the normal dress is shorts and a tee shirt or other casual wear. Since there is an open bar from approximately 12 noon until closing (when the last person leaves) there is every chance to spend a good amount of time here at the bar. The Tortuga Bar and Sun Deck are the venue for the parties that the ship organizes during the week and appetizers are served every evening during cocktail hour. While there is an open bar the entire cruise, heavy drinking was not a problem at any time. The Tortuga Bar is also an excellent place to meet other passengers by simply hanging out around the bar stools after dinner.

The Sun Deck

Right behind the Tortuga Bar is the Sun Deck area that consists of several lounge chairs to lay out in and a large area where luncheon buffets are held. The Sun Deck is also used for the final night's Bar-B-Que under the stars as well as any dances that are put on during the week.

The Bridge

Unlike most cruises the Explorer has an open bridge policy. You can visit the bridge and the officer in charge by simply going up to the bridge and dropping in. The only time deemed inappropriate for visiting the bridge is when complicated maneuvers are taking place.

The Aft Swim/Tender Area

This is the area of the ship that you embark and debark the tenders to go ashore. You may also use the area as a way to enter and exit the ocean as the stairs go right into the water. The Zodiacs drive their bow into the stairwell between the stair handles and then power their outboards to seal the connection between the ship and the Zodiac. You then simply sit on the Zodiac's bow and swing your feet over the bow into the Zodiac to both enter and exit the tender. It is a relatively easy process. The landings on the beaches can be a bit trickier however, as most of the landings are "wet" landings requiring you to exit the tender into shallow water in the surf zone. I found sandals were the way to go as I could easily take them off upon landing and then put them back on once on the dry beach.

One of the members of our group liked fishing from the aft area in the evening and was doing so one night when a sea snake swam up onto the swim step to see what was going on. One of the crewmembers picked it up by its tail and set it on the deck for everyone to see. After 5-minutes or so he released it back into the ocean as they have little ability to move about on dry land. Many folks were surprised that sea snakes would make their presence known in such a manner.

The Cruise
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Day One, Los Suenos at Herradura Bay, Costa Rica

Many of the group arrived early in the morning from overnight flights to San Jose, Costa Rica. They were transferred to the San Jose Marriott Hotel where they shopped, went on tours, enjoyed San Jose's excellent restaurants and generally became acclimated to Costa Rica's rich culture. At 3pm Temptress arranged to take the passengers from the San Jose Marriott Hotel down the Marriott at Los Suenos located in Herradura Bay, a beautiful resort and homeport to Temptress Cruises. Upon arriving at the marina they boarded the Explorer and were greeted with a welcome cocktail party that went on for a half an hour or so before they were shown to their cabins. By this time their luggage had been delivered to their cabin and there was ample time to unpack their clothes and settle into their new home for the next week.

There was a briefing meeting for all the passengers that dealt with the ship's policies and the next day's events. After the briefing they enjoyed a wonderful dinner in the main restaurant and drinks up in the bar area before turning in from the day of travel.

Day Two,, Curu Wildlife Refuge and Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

The Explorer moved during the night to the Tortuga Islands and anchored right off the Curu Wildlife Refuge. The first tour left the ship at 7am and three more followed ½ hour apart. Everyone saw quite a bit of wildlife and thoroughly enjoyed the newness of their experience with the Explorer. I arrived at the ship around 1pm and joined the group while they were having lunch on the Sun deck.

After lunch (great vegetarian dishes along with fish and chicken) on board the Explorer we then were bound for a beach afternoon and Explorer moved to Tortuga Island where the Zodiacs tendered in the passengers. I was ecstatic as there was a small beachside store that sold sandals, baseball caps and sunscreen among other treasures and collectibles. I purchased one of each and when added to the t-shirt and shorts I purchased on the Explorer, I was set for the trip. I enjoyed the beach in the afternoon and admit to falling asleep in one of the hammocks while the trade breezes kept me cool. The next thing I knew was that someone woke me up in time for a wonderful dinner on the beach.

The crew from the Explorer had set up a full beach Bar-B-Que complete with open bar and bon fire. Some of our group got me a glass of wine and I made my way through the buffet line and enjoyed salads, fresh mahi mahi, fruit and some vegetables. There were also meat and pasta choices as well. There is just something about a great beach Bar-B-Que that is so enjoyable. We ate, drank and had a wonderful time. I was really beginning to like this cruise experience. Once back on board I met some of our group at the open-air bar on deck 4 for a nightcap. I was exhausted and shortly went to bed. I slept like a baby.

Day Three, Corcovado and San Josecito, Costa Rica

I woke up at dawn and went above to watch the early morning unfold. We were paralleling the coastline heading south. I enjoyed a cup of coffee as we slid into a small bay surrounded by exposed rock reefs and there was a moderate south swell that gave the Explorer a good amount of rock and roll. I was feeling excellent and decided to join some of the group members on the 8:30 waterfall walk in Corcovado National Park. We tendered into the park station and started our hike up the side of a stream that we traversed on the way up the canyon. The canopy of forest was simply magnificent and the sound of exotic birds and animals was everywhere. The experience is truly wonderful and not just for people into ecology and rain forests, but for anyone even remotely connected to nature. We saw a number of creatures that our guide pointed out to us and we finally reached a small waterfall tumbling into an inviting pool. By this time every one was wringing wet from the humidity and some of us decided to make use of the pools. Before we knew it just about everyone had joined in.

When we were drying off to continue the hike, a number of spider monkeys came through the area in the canopy jumping from tree to tree. It was an amazing thing to see them simply work their way through the trees hundreds of feet above the forest floor. We continued up the canyon to a substantial waterfall where we climbed up to the base of it however the rocks were extremely slippery and many of the people chose not to. After enjoying the waterfall for ten or fifteen minutes we made our way back down the canyon to the beach and caught a tender back to the ship.

The ship moved a few miles up the coast to a wonderful beach called Josecito. Some of the crewmembers had taken provisions to Josecito in the early morning and when we got there they had a wonderful lunch set up for us on the beach. I enjoyed fresh salad, vegetarian pie (that was absolutely delicious) and fresh fruit. The Explorer does a wonderful job at making healthy meal choices available. I spent the afternoon snorkeling and generally just enjoying the beach and the people on the cruise.

I made my way back to the ship to get ready for our first seminar, which we held in the Observation Lounge on deck three. This is a wonderful room that is underutilized by the passengers. It is large enough to do seminars for up to 50 but we just used a small portion of it. During our seminar the Captain announced that there was a whale off the port bow so we all got up to watch it breach right in front of the ship. After the whale we finished our seminar and made our way to get ready for the daily briefing about the following day's events. After the briefing we went to the Captain's dinner party held in the main restaurant. I wore my now standard Temptress shorts, Temptress (CREW) tee shirt and the sandals I purchased on the beach at Tortuga Island. I wasn't underdressed.

The dinner was wonderful with unlimited wine, an excellent appetizer, stuffed prawns and steamed vegetables (excellent), bread and baked Alaska for desert. At the close of the dinner the Captain toasted the passengers who then returned the toast to the Captain and the crew of the Explorer. We talked for quite a while enjoying the conversation and one another before we met up at the open air bar on deck four to have one of our group members build a web site for the first time. Everyone was so relaxed and feeling so wonderful we simply forgot about the website and the evening sank into more conversation and stories. I was really enjoying my Temptress Cruises experience.

Day Four, Isla Coiba, Panama

I woke up with a slight headache from the evening's celebration and slowly made my way to the dining room to grab some coffee and fruit. I ran into some of our group members who were already eating and joined them. After breakfast we grabbed a Zodiac to a small islet right off the coast of Isla Coiba. It was absolutely to die for and was perfect in every way. The water was crystal clear with an abundance of coral, fish and other sea life. The small island offered coral wall drop offs, sandy flats, lots of crevices, large coral covered rocks, shallow coral reefs and just about every underwater terrain you could imagine. We snorkeled around the entire island and saw lots of large fish, millions of small fish and found a good many live shells of good size. It was an absolutely perfect setup to snorkel and enjoy the beach. One of the aspects of the small island everyone enjoyed were the thousands of hermit crabs that inhabited the islet. They would run over your feet and generally amuse everyone with their antics and constant motion. The Explorer had brought fruit and drink ashore for everyone to enjoy when they wanted and whenever someone would through a piece of fruit among the crabs there was quickly a pile up of hundreds of hermit crabs competing for a bite of the fruit. I was amazed at how well the crabs must be able to smell and react to the presence of food as they would come running from dozens of yards away as soon as they sense some food was present. Some of the NACTA group members posed for a quick shot...you can see they are having a hard time enjoying themselves.

After a wonderful morning at the beach we made our way back to the ship to enjoy an excellent buffet lunch served on the sundeck. While we enjoyed our lunch the Explorer moved from the small island over the main Isla Coiba, which was another great spot!

There is a national park outpost here and a fishing/surfing camp as well. The beach is absolutely magnificent with a backdrop of a large inland lagoon complete with crocodiles, exotic birds and other wild life. There was a small friendly deer simply walking around the area that was free to leave any time it wanted but chose to stay on its own free will. The snorkeling was not as good as at the small island but it was still wonderful. The water was as warm as a bathtub and there was little current to be concerned with. Two of the ladies in our group refused to leave the island and wanted to stay for the duration of their lives. Isla Coiba was great. For information about the fishing camp located there visit www.coibadventure.com . We took the last tender back to the ship wishing we could have stayed another day in this pristine environment.

Back on the ship some of us met in the bar for an early toast to the oncoming evening, attended the briefing for the following day in Golfito and went to the main dining room for another sit down dinner. We enjoyed a lingering dinner with fun conversation about the day's events and talk of other cruises and places we had been. Following dinner it was off to the bar for a final nightcap before turning in early exhausted from the day's rigorous activities.

Day Five, Golfito and Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

I was up early to watch the Explorer slide into an absolutely gorgeous setting with oil slick calm waters leading to a verdant green jungle. Two pangas anchored right offshore reminded me of an oil painting only here it was in real life……the vista was absolutely stunning. After a leisurely breakfast with some of the folks in our group I went ashore on the 8:30 am tender to enjoy the 2- ½ hour tour of the family owned Casa Orquideas Botanical Gardens. The Gardens encompass a huge area where the family maintains extensive gardens of ornamental plants, palms, fruit trees, orchids, cycads and a huge variety of other plants of the tropics. There is also a large amount of birds, insects, butterflies and other wildlife to enjoy.

One of the treats during the tour of the gardens was the sampling of tropical fruit such as Sapote, Papaya and Cherimoya. There are orchid blooms everywhere and many flowering shrubs and trees as well. Even if you are not into plants whatsoever you will enjoy this tour. The ship also ran a 3-hour bird-watching tour of the garden first thing in the morning. Everyone liked this tour and at the end there are gift items, tee shirts and other memorabilia for sale at the garden's headquarters.

After the tour we enjoyed a buffet lunch on the sun deck as the Explorer made its way into the town of Golfito. Lunch featured a fabulous dish with rice, shrimp, scallops, mussels and calamari all mixed together. It was so good I (and most of the other passengers) went back for second servings. Of course there were the usual breads, mixed salad bar, meat entrée, deserts and other treats as well.

After relocating just offshore from Golfito I decided to simply take it easy for the afternoon rather than do the 3-hour exploration of the Zamia Project in Golfo Dulce. A group of 17 passengers was departing the ship in Golfito and two more passengers were boarding. Everyone was saying their goodbyes to the departing guests and soon they were off on their way to Panama. Some of our group was sitting up by the bar on deck 4 just talking and enjoying the day's breeze and views when the Hotel Manager Jose introduced the couple who had just boarded the ship. After the couple was seated and enjoying their lunch, Jose announced that there was going to be an auction of clothes from a piece of luggage they had found. I was shocked to see that Jose had my missing bag and presented it to me.

Understand that American Airlines messed up the interline delivery to LACSA and it was American's fault the bag had not made it. Upon hearing of my problem Temptress took it upon themselves to chase the bag down, claim it, get it through customs, fly it to
Golfito with the passengers boarding that day and deliver it to the ship for me. I thought I wouldn't see that bag until a week after I got back to San Diego. I was truly touched that they went to all that trouble for me…it truly speaks well for the character of the crew and management of Temptress Cruises and is consistent with the quality of the individuals I experienced.

After unpacking I decided to wander into Golfito for an hour or so and see what was there. One of the Zodiac crew took me into the town's wharf and dropped me off. I made arrangements for him to pick me up at 4pm so as not be too late as to be a problem (just about everyone else had gone on the tour) I wandered Golfito's main street in both directions and found the area interesting. There is an upper street made up of dozens of bars right next to one another. Since Golfito is quite remote from the balance of Costa Rica, I assumed that this must have been the heart of Southern Costa Rica's entertainment area and probably served many of the outlying communities and fishing villages for miles around as a cultural and entertainment center. I found a telephone and also was able to purchase a prepaid telephone card at the Hotel Samoa to make some telephone calls.

Back on board ship I attended Thursday's briefing of events and then went on to an excellent dinner in the main dining room. I enjoyed mahi mahi, fresh vegetables, bread and wine. One of the group members had brought a substantial number of tee shirts and hats down to donate to one of the communities in Costa Rica but had given them to me to use as my wardrobe for the trip. Since I had now received my luggage and didn't need the inventory of tee shirts any longer I decided to go ashore into Golfito and find an appropriate donee. Some of our group members joined me as we made our way into the small wharf that led to downtown Golfito. We walked through town into the entertainment area and I found a Chinese restaurant that looked to be very popular with local families. I gave the hefty bag of clothing to the owner of the restaurant explaining that he could choose who might need the clothes the most and disperse them accordingly. He was extremely appreciative and genuinely thankful for the gift. I felt wonderful for having chosen him as his gratitude spoke for the eventual recipients of the tee shirts and hats. I will remember to bring such things on future trips.

We stopped at one of the local hotel's bar for a drink and then made our way back to the ship feeling very wonderful for the experience. Once onboard the ship the music from the Sun Deck drew me to it and I found the entire ship on the dance floor (deck) dancing to a fabulous band that Temptress had brought onboard for entertainment. They were playing Spanish, rock and roll and marimba with mucho gusto. Everyone was having a great time and the band's singer had learned some of the names of passengers and was calling their names loudly to get them to dance to the music. He had a great way about engaging his audience and was able to get everyone involved in the party. I stayed quite a while enjoying everyone dancing and partying and then made my way to an excellent night's sleep.

Day Six, Corcovado Conservation Sanctuary and Drake's Bay, Costa Rica

Some of the men in our group had decided to go fishing rather then do the morning's hike and/or kayak trip into the Corcovado Conservation Sanctuary and I elected to join them. I split a ½-day charter on a small (22') fishing boat that the Costa Ricans referred to as a "yacht" We had decided to try for tuna so we could provide the ship with fresh fish for dinner. We departed the ship at 7am and shuttled over to our "yacht". After boarding we explained our desire to fish for tuna and the guys agreed to make the run outside to try for tuna. We powered towards the outside for about 40 minutes and started trolling just inside of an island that was a protected national conservation fishery. After about 20 minutes we had our first hook-up and one of the guys landed a nice tuna around 10lbs. We continued to troll for about and hour without any further hook-ups. The skipper decided to relocate to another area so we ran about another 25 minutes to the outside of the island and began trolling once again. After about fifteen minutes we had a triple hook-up with larger tuna this time.

One of the guys broke off his tuna but we managed to land the other two after spending a considerable time wearing them down. These fish weighed about 25 to 30 pounds and the skipper said it had been months since they had caught quality tuna like these. We then began trolling once more and spent the next couple of hours moving further outside with no success. There were sea turtles everywhere, dolphin piloting the boat and a never-ending array of sea life to observe. We came upon three different schools of young manta rays jumping up to ten feet in the air simply playing. We finally turned the trolling activity towards the island to start our return to the ship and noticed a fish floating on the surface of the water. We pulled up next to it and it was a beautiful red snapper that was still alive but dying. It had tried to eat a fish that was too large for its mouth and simply choked on it. We took it aboard as they are great eating. Not five minutes later there was another and then another. In all, we picked up three beautiful red snappers to add to our three tuna.

The other boat had had similar luck and had scored a 42lb Cabrilla and some smaller fish. We got back to the boat and took the tender to Drake's Bay where lunch was being served on the beach. I was starving and had a soy burger, salad and fruit and was completely satisfied both with lunch and with the morning's fishing experience. Drake's Bay is a beautiful beach and the beach cookout was wonderful. Some folks from the ship had arranged a horse back ride along the beach and one of the Explorer's crew went with them. Later in the afternoon I went back to the ship to rest and get ready for the evening's activities.

I went up to the bar around 5:30 and the ship had cut one of the Yellow Fin tunas into sashimi and served it with a blend of Teriyaki, soy and other spices for an excellent appetizer. I thoroughly enjoyed the treat, as did everyone else on the ship. We were having such a good time enjoying the sashimi with our cocktails that many of us elected to pass on attending Friday's briefing in lieu of continuing to feast on the sashimi, which we did. Right before dinner we went to the briefing to get the following day's schedule and then headed into dinner from there. We had another wonderful dinner of red snapper, vegetables, and bread and of course, the never empty wine carafes. When the entree was being served the chef brought out the 42lb Cabrilla that he had cleaned and baked….it was simply a beautiful fish and presentation. Next came a tray of red snapper that we had "picked up". We truly had a feast of fish, wine and vegetables. It was a very memorable dinner indeed. After dinner it was back to the open-air bar to enjoy the evening's breeze and reflections of the moon off of the oily calm water surrounding the Explorer. After a nightcap I decided to turn in after a full day of fishing, swimming, laying on the beach and wonderful meals.

Day Seven, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

I was really looking forward to visiting Manuel Antonio National Park as its famed wildlife and beaches had always intrigued my imagination. I envisioned perfect while sand coves and beaches, toucans, parrots, sloths and monkeys everywhere and a wonderful jungle with bamboo, orchids, a huge canopy covering layer upon layer of undergrowth with a large biodiversity of plant and animal life…..I wasn't disappointed. Please understand that I am not a naturalist nor am I knowledgeable about ecotourism or any of the other aspect about what I was experiencing. It is just that you would have to be totally out of touch with nature and your surroundings not to be in awe with this National Park. It is simply wonderful. It would be the same for any natural wonder such as you wouldn't have to be a geologist to enjoy the Grand Canyon. The Manuel Antonio National Park is simply a wonderful and easy place to experience much of what Costa Rica has to offer and anyone can enjoy its vast trails and beaches. One of the jokes for the day was the rare toucans (two-cans) that were spotted along the trail.

After visiting the park we continued into the village that adjoins the main entrance to the park. It is a very tastefully developed village with many quality hotels and restaurants to choose from. We walked to the beach and some of the group made purchases from the beach side vendors that were selling tee shirts, beach blankets, clothing, collectibles and many other items. Everyone noticed the easygoing nature of the vendors that did not pester you to purchase their wares. There is a beautiful beach and excellent swimming area as well. After enjoying a refreshment we decided to make our way back to the ship for lunch as many of us did not think to bring money to dine in the town. We started our trek back through the park and stopped on several occasions to enjoy the howler monkeys and many other inhabitants of the park. We came upon one cove that a number of monkeys had descended upon and they were right in the trees surrounding the trail that we were on. Iguanas were everywhere as were beautiful butterflies, fabulous birds and many other forms of wild life.

Back on board we enjoyed a lunch of fresh vegetables and fish on the sun deck I really hadn't thought about it but the Explorer had offered a vegetarian entrée at every meal, which is very unusual for any cruise ship. I very much appreciated the inclusion of healthy choices without any fanfare whatsoever. Many ships make a big deal about offering a healthy alternative to the point where you almost feel out of place for trying to avoid foods that may contain unhealthy fats, calories or other ingredients better off not taken

After lunch everyone went back to the beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park to enjoy swimming and other beach activities and interacting with the fabulous environment and wild life. I decided to stay on board to try and catch up on my writing. We had our second seminar at 4pm in the Observation Lounge and had a great interchange regarding small ship cruising and then gathered on the sun deck for our group photo.

The entire group of passengers was in the Tortuga Bar for cocktail hour and then a wonderful Bar-B-Que of mahi mahi, steak, an excellent salad bar, fruit and lots of vegetables. As always plenty of wine was flowing and everyone enjoyed dessert and some coffee. Following dinner the entire staff of the Explorer came out and Jose (the Hotel Manager) introduced every one of them and offered a farewell toast. It was amazing to see the extent of the relationships that the passengers and the crew had developed in such a short time. Everyone commented on how accommodating and giving the Costa Rican people are. I stayed for a nightcap and then turned in early while many of the passengers and staff continued to party into the night.

Day Eight, San Jose, Costa Rica

Everyone was awake by 6am for the 7:30am transfer from the Explorer to the airport and various hotels in San Jose. I was unable to get a flight out of San Jose back to San Diego until Sunday so it was necessary for me to spend the evening in San Jose. We enjoyed one last breakfast in the main dining room with everyone now close friends and teasing one another about events that occurred during the cruise. I think that the relationships that are forged due to the closeness of small ship cruising are the most positive aspect of small ships. You just do not have the same types of friendships evolve on a large ship. We had our luggage outside our cabins before breakfast and the staff of the Explorer carried them ashore before starting to tender the passengers. I was on one of the first tenders and was treated to a quick tour of the Explorer's sister ship the Voyager. She is much smaller but remarkably the same as her larger sister.

We boarded the motor coach and made our way to San Jose in about two hours. We dropped a good number of people at the airport and then made a stop at the Sheraton Hotel where the majority of people spent the afternoon and night if they did not have a flight on Saturday. I continued on to the Hotel Corobici where I had reservations for the evening. Upon arrival I went to my room, took a long bath and then decided to take a long walk into San Jose. San Jose is a wonderful city with an extremely diverse population running from sophisticated to street urchins. The main market place is well worth experiencing, as are the various crafts stores and shops. I walked for hours in and around San Jose and never felt threatened in any way. I found even the seedy areas were quite friendly and hospitable. Even the street beggars, merchants and assorted hucksters are not overly aggressive as they can be in many Latin cultures.

I finally got back to the hotel late in the day and had a wonderful shrimp dinner and turned in for the evening wanting a good night's sleep for the flight back to San Diego in the morning. I would highly recommend a day in San Jose on both sides of the cruise. This will allow you to acclimate to Costa Rica and also allow you to choose the exact flights that would be most convenient for you.

The Shore Excursions
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The Temptress cruises are designed for folks interested in experiencing Costa Rica's rich National Parks with their huge diversity of plant and animal life. The Explorer offers daily shore excursions with something for everyone in the morning and then again in the afternoon. There are four naturalists/guides on the ship that escort groups to unique places at each port of call. The typical day on the Explorer consists of a morning nature walk/hike into a national park followed by lunch either on the ship or on the beach and then an afternoon at a fabulous beach for swimming and water sports. However an afternoon excursion is usually offered for those folks that want to experience as much of Costa Rica's natural assets as possible.

Each evening there is a briefing of the following day's activities with detailed information about each tour. Following the briefing there is a sign-up board for each tour that you simply note your cabin number for as many folks in your cabin that want to attend. The Explorer tries to limit the number of folks in attendance to groups of a maximum of 15. If a tour is popular and more than 15 sign up they will split the tour into smaller groups to make sure every one has a positive experience. All of the shore excursions of this nature are included in the price of the cruise.

The tours are broken down into various ratings. A difficult tour would be one that requires substantial climbing, difficult river or canyon crossings or includes some other element that would indicate that you should be in good shape and capable of withstanding physical stress during the outing. A moderate rating would indicate that there might be elements of the tour that require a moderate amount of energy and physical stamina. An easy rating indicates that this is the easiest of the tours being offered but it may still require some physical exertion and dexterity. If you are physically challenged in any way be sure to ask the guides what level of physical activity may be required on the tour. They will let you know if there are steep hills, streams forded or other challenges to be dealt with. In addition, weather can play a major part in the excursions as many take place in tropical rain forests that become quite slippery when rain or drizzle is present. Don't overestimate your physical ability when deciding which tour to enjoy.

The morning shore excursions always offer one for bird and wildlife watching (take binoculars) trail hikes and walks and other interesting activities. The guide usually carries a large monocular that is used for viewing animals, birds and assorted other things. When something is spotted, he will set up the monocular and those that want to inspect the focus of the stop may do so. On the excursions that I went on we saw monkeys, lots of different kinds of exotic birds, many different types of animals from sloths to deer to raccoons and so on. The flora of Costa Rica is also explored in depth, as were insects, butterflies and other various oddities.

Afternoons were generally spent at a great beach as it turned quite warm and hiking would have been uncomfortable for many folks. The beach stops were great for snorkeling, fishing, kayaking and generally relaxing in the sun. There is lots to see with an abundance of fish and shell life as well as life on shore. One stop had so many hermit crabs that everyone had a great time just watching and feeding them. There is such a diverse amount of activities in Costa Rica following is a breakdown on how to maximize your enjoyment of them.

Bird Watching

There are daily bird watching tours for experienced and new bird watches as well. Be sure to bring binoculars and also a good chart of the various birds you might see in Costa Rica. Without even being on a bird watching tour we saw Toucans, Parrots, Parakeets, birds of prey and lots of other exotic birds. We had a couple of agents really into bird watching with our group and I asked them to write about their experience so other bird watchers could evaluate the quality of the Costa Rica National Parks. Here is their article.

AN EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURE
TEMPTRESS COSTA RICA ADVENTURE CRUISE

By Barbara Patton

The Temptress Adventure cruise is a nature expedition on the Pacific Ocean side of Costa Rica. Becky Beckers with Travel for the Birds and her sister, Barbara, took this cruise to check out the birding and wildlife viewing potential for the Audubon Society of Greater Denver .

This is not on a huge cruise ship of one thousand people; this is not a cruise where we were treated like a number; this is not a cruise that charged for something every time we departed the ship for a shore excursion; this is not a cruise dedicated to shopping at seaports. At its maximum capacity of 98 passengers, a Temptress Cruise is a "voyage of the heart!" The heart in this voyage is the appreciation for Costa Rica's flora and fauna and the passion for preserving its natural beauty. The heart in this voyage is found in the extreme care for accommodating each person and the smiles and warmth of the crew. The heart is found in the tenacity and enthusiasm of the guides who kept us excited about spotting birds, butterflies, sloths, iguanas, and monkeys in an ocean of leaves. All of our senses came alive as we set our intent to listen for the movement, smell the fragrances, look in the distant tree tops for parrots, and feel the stillness and harmony of the tropical forest.

Suddenly, our guide says, "Macaw", "Macaw!" We sharpen our vision, but still see only leaves. Our guide sets up his spotting scope and tells us to take a look. Sure enough, as beautiful as the picture in a travel brochure, a Scarlet Macaw poses with all its magnificent color! Our hearts take a leap as we feel a sense of oneness with all living things.

During our seven-day cruise we identify more than 100 different birds. Our guides share their in-depth knowledge and experiences with us. We learn how birds survive either on fruit, seeds, flies and insects, other birds eggs or even on monkeys that provide food for the black hawk and black eagle.

We see a Toucan with its enormous bill try to rob the nest of the Great Kiskadee. The Kiskadees put up a good fight and even enlist the help of a Dusky-capped Flycatcher. According to our guide, this calling for help is not uncommon. Because a variety of species in a group reduces the likelihood of predators getting the eggs, each bird has special attributes to spot and protect the nest from predators. The lesson learned here is that greater strength exists in diversity as each uses his/her special gifts. Birding was our main interest; however, others could follow their own passions aboard the Temptress. The ship stopped at Coiba Island for snorkeling and diving in water as clear as blue glass. We did kayaking into tree-lined inlets where some bird watched; Becky was quite proud to spot a Fiery-Billed Aracari. Others went swimming in the water that was clear and cold then sat on huge rocks in the warm sun. We did nature hiking; during one of our trips we saw white-faced monkeys playing in palm trees and running around the trunk like kittens. We saw monkeys steal cookies out of a back- pack left on the beach, and in one instance, three monkeys chased Barbara down the beach!

Total relaxation aboard the Temptress was attained through a combination of soothing massages and the ship's offering of complimentary beverages. Each meal was like a banquet, and we felt like honored guests! Fresh local pineapples, papaya, watermelon, oranges and other fruit were arranged beautifully on large platters at every meal.

This was definitely an extraordinary adventure. It gave new meaning to "having it all!" We touched the heart of nature that reached out with its beauty and its spirit of life. This spirit was so well expressed by one hiker when he said: "It is amazing to me how much life wants to happen!" The Costa Rica Adventure Cruise by Temptress lived up to its mission: A Voyage of the Heart! If you would like to join this exciting adventure cruise during one of their year-round weekly departures, contact Becky Beckers at 303-766-5266 or email her at AgentBecky@aol.com .

Nature Walks

Bring binoculars! Most of the walks saw quite a bit of wild life but it usually exists in the forest canopy several hundred feet above the trail. Without binoculars it is difficult to see very much detail. If you were a serious naturalist an investment in quality binoculars would definitely be warranted. Also, if you can bring a book (or books) showing the various flora and fauna of Costa Rica so you can identify what you are experiencing this would be a definite plus.

Beach Time

Definitely invest in a quality mask and snorkel. The Explorer has masks, snorkels and fins available for its passengers and while they are of acceptable quality you are much better off purchasing a positive fit for your mask. You can use the ship's fins and snorkels but there is a shortage of the little rubber fittings that connects the snorkel to the mask. If you really want to be popular with the other passengers and crew why not bring a bunch for other people to use? Also, if you intend to do any shelling (catch and release only) bring along a pair of gloves for handling the various specimens you will find. Don't forget to invest in mask defogger as masks tend to fog up in the 80 degree water. Bring spf 30 (or higher) water proof sunscreen.

Fishing

The Explorer only offered sport fishing on one occasion (Drakes Bay) but fishing is available at many of the stops. If you want to fish on the various beaches or off the ship where it is anchored and at night you should bring the following:

1 lightweight 3-piece fresh water rod.
1 salt-water spinning reel with extra 8, 10, 12 and 17# line test spools.
Fresh water spinning lures work excellent for surf and reef fishing.
Don't forget swivels sinkers, hooks and assorted small jigs and spoons

1 30# or 40# line test salt-water 3-piece rod.
1 Penn International model 975 (or equivalent) with fresh 25# test and an extra filler spool.
An assortment of salt-water jigs, hooks, swivels and sinkers.

We had a gentleman in our group (a spouse of one of the agents) that caught the 42# Cabrilla with the 25# 3-piece rod and International 975 rod/reel configuration. He was able to carry his entire fishing setup in a small tube and area in his luggage and took it with him on every cruise he went on.

Surfing

Forget it. Costa Rica is known for it excellent surf but the Explorer does not hit any of the areas where surfing would fit in with the cruise. Go early and stay late if you want to sample Costa Rica's great surf.

SCUBA Diving

Take your own regulator and gauges. Other than that the Explorer will provide everything you need. Dives are not offered every day but the diving is excellent when it is offered. If you are interested in diving be sure to tell the hotel manager so he can connect you with dive opportunities during the cruise.

Explorer Questions and Answers
( Back to Top ) Exactly what is included in the price?

Virtually everything is included including
The cruise
Transfers from/to the airport
All shore excursions, generally two a day (but does not include optional shore excursions such as fishing, horse back riding, etc.)
All beer and wine at lunch and dinner
Open bar for the entire cruise (from 12 noon until closing) at the Tortuga Bar
Snorkeling gear
All water sports (water skiing, ocean kayaking, etc.)
Professional guides available for all shore excursions
Laundry service twice a week
Daily shoe cleaning

Not Included
Port Charges
Gratuities ($120 per 7-day cruise suggested per person)

While the initial price seems high when you factor in the inclusions it becomes a great value.

Is there a self-service laundry?

No, but there are two laundry days on a seven-day cruise but be advised that each person is only allowed 5 pieces of clothing to be washed each laundry day. It takes a day or two to get the clothes back. There is a laundry line in the bathroom for drying clothes that are washed in the sink. The Explorer is not equipped with a desalination plant and must carry its water for all uses. While there isn't a shortage of water for showers and other uses, it is rationed for laundry services which is why each person is limited to five pieces.

How is the food?

Generally, the food on the Explorer is very good to excellent. There is a breakfast buffet every morning in the main dinning room and a continental breakfast from 6:30am on the Sun Deck. Breakfast offers fruit (papaya, cantaloupe, watermelon and pineapple) yogurt, various fresh rolls and pastries, many types of cold cereal, several hot dishes of breakfast meat, eggs and other select dishes such as French toast, enchiladas and other treats. There are also at least two kinds of fresh juice, hot coffee and tea. There are plenty of healthy choices to select from.

Lunch always offered at least one vegetarian dish that was delicious. On one beach cookout they offered a vegetarian pie that was to die for. Steamed vegetables were offered daily as was fresh salad with many condiments and types of dressing. It is interesting to note that I ate salad at every meal it was offered and never had any problems as you would expect in Mexico (where I never eat salad) Even during the "American Cook Out Beach Bar-B-Que" at Drakes Bay soy burgers were offered as an alternative to beef hamburgers.

Dinners always included both a fish and a vegetarian selection every day. On sit-down dinner days the chef would post an order board so that you could preorder your dinner selection in the morning for that evening's meal. Dinner started with an appetizer, followed by a salad and/or soup and then the entrée was served. Everyone enjoyed dessert and coffee at the end of each meal. Every dinner saw an unlimited amount of white and red wine in carafes on the table that were automatically refilled when some was poured.

What Should I Pack?

Temptress has an excellent packing list on their web site so I won't repeat it here. During our cruise we experienced excellent weather and I well over packed using the Temptress' suggestions. I found that I wore my bathing suit most of the day and then switched to shorts and a Hawaiian shirt in the evening. However many on our cruise were happy with simply a tee shirt, shorts and sandals for the dinner and the after-dinner entertainment. While I actually got my luggage late in the cruise I wasn't out-of-place wearing my "CREW" tee shirt, shorts, sandals and baseball hat for the first four days. The environment is relaxed and casual and while I brought two pair of walking shoes I never used them, as my sandals were all the protection that I needed during the trip including the hikes.

I must admit though, that as a San Diego surfer, I am used to living in shorts and sandals year around. Definitely leave the dress clothes home, as even on the night of the Captain's dinner all you need is a pair of shorts and a tee shirt.

How are the gratuities handled?

At the end of the cruise you may pay the gratuities with cash or you may simply charge them to your credit card. I elected to charge them even though the crew has to wait for the processing, as I needed a record of the amount I paid. On the last evening an envelope is given to each cabin on the cruise and the gratuities are deposited into a "Tip Box" that is put in the Boutique so that it is available when you check out and pay for any other purchases that you have made on the ship. The gratuities are split evenly between all of the crew on the Explorer and I would suspect that if you tried to recognize any one crewmember they would probably turn it into the pool for distribution per the ship's policies.

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