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Why didn’t I discover this pura vida thing years ago?
That question flashed across my mind as I drifted into a hammock-induced snooze on yet another blissful UnCruise Adventures day. If ever there was a remedy for the anxiety and excess of modern life, this Costa Rica and Panama itinerary might be it.
UnCruise has built a reputation on its up close and authentic experiences. During its 12-night Pure Panama & Costa Rica expedition, we enjoyed rare opportunities to explore the region’s rich biodiversity while also venturing into remote locations to meet some of Panama’s indigenous people. This nature-focused journey was packed with visits to conservation areas, national parks, islands, inlets, beaches, reefs and rainforests.
Fittingly, our expedition guides all hailed from either Costa Rica or Panama, and their depth of local knowledge gave an extra dimension to each destination. Along the way, the crew kept a running tally of species we spotted. By the end of the cruise, the list ranged from howler monkeys to sea turtles, scarlet macaws to toucans, dolphins to crocodiles — and beyond.
The 174-foot, 34-cabin Safari Voyager can accommodate up to 66 guests, but my sailing had only 51 passengers, along with 23 multilingual crew members. Many of my fellow travelers were repeat UnCruise adventurers (in fact, one fellow was chalking up his eighth trip). The ship is casual with simple, thoughtful amenities — including binoculars in each cabin — and well-prepared meals featuring local ingredients. The dress code onboard is unfussy, and there’s no need for guests to change out of their flip-flops.
“Multigenerational families are great candidates for our Safari Voyager cruises,” said Tim Jacox, president and COO of UnCruise Adventures.
UnCruise prides itself on the versatility of its small-ship approach, he adds.
“With so few guests, there’s flexibility within our overall itinerary to find wildlife, linger and try out new things; it flows simply and smoothly,” Jacox said. “One way we describe our unique experiences with our low guest count is, ‘only these few can do so much.’”
Each day, we chose from a range of guided activities that included bird-watching, hiking, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and snorkeling in the bathtub-warm water — all offered free of charge, with gear provided by the ship. On the cultural front, our visit to an Embera village in the Darien Jungle in Panama was fascinating.
For 2020, UnCruise’s roster of Latin American voyages will be reconfigured. Along with one final 12-night trip in April 2020, the line is offering a series of abbreviated (seven- and 10-night) Costa Rica and Panama itineraries, while also introducing a new, seven-night Panama and Colombia trip. What will they all have in common? The Panama Canal.
Transiting the Panama Canal in a small ship is especially thrilling, and our UnCruise crew provided an experience that was a history and engineering lesson wrapped in a party. The chef served dinner on deck while one of our Panamanian leaders narrated each step of the ship’s progress. We were close enough to the action that we could greet the crew who guided us through the canal, and cheer for the rope-throwing workers at the locks.
In true UnCruise fashion, this was an up close and personal way to enjoy a bucket-list adventure — we were always learning, but with plenty of laughter, too.
The DetailsUnCruise Adventures www.uncruise.com