3 Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera) First-Time Cruisers Cruise Reviews

We were lucky; we got a substantial discount, including all shore excursions free, our boat was only half capacity, and the folks we did sail with were some of the most congenial we've ever met. If not for all this, I fear we may ... Read More
We were lucky; we got a substantial discount, including all shore excursions free, our boat was only half capacity, and the folks we did sail with were some of the most congenial we've ever met. If not for all this, I fear we may have been disappointed. The Voyager is a very attractive boat, the crew uniformly friendly, helpful, and cheerful. (I suspect that was mainly due to we being such an easy crowd to deal with). Our cabin, 214, was small as expected, but there were plenty of places to stow our gear and we never felt jammed in. The bathroom was surprisingly large. Our two portholes were too high up to look out without a stretch, but we spent as little time in our cabin as necessary anyway. Do be aware that all forward cabins get the noise from the bow thrusters and anchor chains, which can be quite loud. I can only recall one time they were used during sleeping hours, though, and my partner slept right through the noise. The food was good to very good, but never what I would call gourmet. Service in the dining room was excellent. All alcohol is extra, but prices were not unreasonable. The theme of this trip is the natural life of Costa Rica, but, as the excursion descriptions note, sightings cannot be guaranteed. Our first stop, Curu Reserve, had a very intimate feel. Our guide had grown up there and his affection for the place was evident. It was a very easy landing and walk that gave us close up views of many iguanas and monkeys. This was probably the best of the wildlife walks. After our morning visit, there was a short trip to another island for the first of two beach barbecues, easily the best meals of the week, then plenty of time for swimming. The next stop, Manuel Antonio Park is described as a guided walk on small trails through dense rain forest. Actually, you are walking along a very crowded road, the only way through the park as far as I know, and crowding around the guide's telescope hoping for a sight of something. Entry to the park is supposedly controlled; we were kept waiting at the gate for about 45 minutes, then the waiting crowd, probably about 200 strong, was let in all at once. The description also says the tour ends with time at the beach. The beach is indeed beautiful, but those choosing to stay and swim must make their own way back to the ship. The time and distance involved make that impractical. The next stop, Quepos, is made mainly for those wanting to try zip lining. The town itself has little to offer, and the beach is not recommended. We did try the zip lining, had a great time, but don't feel the need to try it again. The Osa Peninsula walk was disappointing - the wildlife just wasn't cooperatin - and the walk was a bit trickier than described; indeed, in wet weather, it must be almost impassible. The description mentions a visit to a turtle hatchery, but it didn't happen and was never mentioned. Casa Orquedas is a private tropical plant preserve, and is indeed a little Garden of Eden. The landing was tricky, on a beach of slippery stones, but the walk very easy. We had the chance to smell and taste many tropical plants and fruits. This was the best excursion for plant life. The next day may have been the best. The morning was spent on Granita del Oro, a speck of sand and palm trees that offered perfect snorkeling conditions, even for us beginners. We really felt like castaways. In the afternoon we sailed a short distance to Coiba for another great beach barbecue. Two nature walks were offered, neither of which anyone felt was worth the effort. There was plenty of beach time here, as well. The last excursion was to the town of La Palma, a small town of mostly African descendants that is trying to build a tourist trade. I did not go on this trip; those who did had mixed opinions. Some felt awkward, others that it was important and worthwhile. Finally, we reached Panama City. We started with a trip to the wonderful Miraflores Locks overlook and canal museum. We then drove to the Old Quarter, which will probably be a great place to visit in another five years or so. Right now, most of it seems to be a construction zone. Our stop here seemed a bit of a waste. The Canal transit is done at night (the cruise line has little say in this) and was quite a thrill. We officially disembarked at Shelter Bay, an attractive little marina, but a few folks got off at Colon when we made a refueling stop. Allow at least two hours for transfer from Shelter Bay to Panama City. All in all, we enjoyed ourselves very much, but I think that if we had paid full fare and for each excursion, we would have felt letdown. I do feel some of the excursions were a bit overhyped. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
When booking our first ever cruise, I was nervous about what I had read on the boards regarding kids on Star Clipper. So I thought I would share our experience which can be summoned up in a single word- Great!!!!!I have 9 year old son and ... Read More
When booking our first ever cruise, I was nervous about what I had read on the boards regarding kids on Star Clipper. So I thought I would share our experience which can be summoned up in a single word- Great!!!!!I have 9 year old son and a daughter who actually turned 12 on our trip. My husband is a Scientist who despises crowds, shopping casinos, & cheesy Broadway reviews. When my daughter asked us if we could go on a cruise for our annual family vacation I was in a bit of pickle given that her Dad's idea of a vacation is not a big traditional cruise ship. He loves nature, adventure, history and science. After months of research we had zeroed in on Star Clipper. We signed up for the 6 night repositioning cruise from Costa Rica to Panama and booked the 2 day pre-land package in Monteverde cloud forest. The land package was fabulous. From the moment we landed we where taken care of. Our transfer driver showed us all sorts of things on the way to Monteverde, including stopping for lunch, monkeys and other wildlife. The visit to Selvatura park was lots of fun and we where able to add in Zip-lining which was heart stopping action adventure. The hummingbirds where amazing and the coatis just wandered all around the hummingbird garden. My family was entranced. The Hotel Fonda Vela had a lovey hot tub and pools with a gorgeous view. A real highlight for my daughter was eating a big bowl of Ice cream made locally at the Monteverde dairy, which the hotel brought to her in the hot tub. Pura Vida!!!! On the last Morning the Hotel helped me book a tour at Monteverde National Park and we where lucky enough to see a female Quetzal and a toucanette plus Coatis, agoutis and trogans. The guide was great! After a terrific lunch we headed to Puerte Caldera.We got to Puerte Caldera about an hour before the boat sailed which was a bit boring as the terminal is minimal but the line did have some apple juice and a nice plate of fruit for us. We killed the time watching the Star Flyer being moved further down the dock to make way for huge container ship so even that was interesting. Embarkation was easy and we where greeted with a nice fruit drink and music.Since there was 4 of us we booked 2 cabins a cat 6 and a cat 4 that where across the hall from each other. The cat 6 is tiny and no frills We joked with the kids it was a combination vacation and "scared straight"., but the kids did like the bunk beds. The cabin across the way was just fine with a port hole, DVD player and between the two we never felt cramped.When we first got on board my daughter said to me mom I think people are staring at us we are the ONLY family. Looking around I think we where attracting some looks. As it turns out we weren't the only family as a set of grandparents where traveling with their 14 year old grandson. The next day at the Captain's welcome speech he made a point to note how happy Star Flyer was to have a family aboard and to publicly welcome us. It was a nice feeling.At dinner Godwin and Herman went out of their way to make sure my super picky 9 year old eater knew that he could always have pasta or steak and french fries. The bar tender also made a point to tell the kids he could make them special fun fruit cocktails just for them.Pretty soon my kids where entranced with ship and the grand adventure. Our first stop was Quepos. We wanted to do the horseback riding but not enough people signed up. Ximena managed to switch us to white water rafting. Our guide was great. Just as we arrived the heavens opened up and drenched us. My son who had a cough was soon shivering. Our guide noticed his discomfort and quickly made him a plastic raincoat from a plastic bag which was very kind. The weather soon cleared and our guide was terrific. Helped us spot all sorts of wildlife and picked a perfect line through every rapid. After white water rafting back on board the kids hit the pools and tried out the bow net both of which where big hits! My son especially enjoyed diving down into the bottom of the pool and waving through the windows down there at the tropical bar.The next few days passed by a in a whirl. Tour of Corvacado National Park, Climbing the crows nest, even my 9 year old, plus raising the sails and swimming. The only tour that was a disappointment was the wildlife rescue center and orchid garden. Definitely not worth 80 E. Our best day was at Isla de Coiba in Panama. The most gorgeous beach I have ever seen. My 12 year old enjoyed the beach while my husband, son and I snorkeled. The snorkeling was fabulous. The highlight for my son was finding a harmless white tipped reef shark while snorkeling. He was so excited it was amazing to watch. The sports team nick named him shark boy after that. Our last stop at Isla Iguana was canceled because the seas where too rough to safely get us off the boat and instead we had a day at sea. While disappointed I appreciated the crews concern for our safety.The kids also had a blast with the evening entertainment. My daughter loved making us pirate costumes out of our daily bulletins (hats) tying our red t-shirts on our heads, dressing yus in strips, and making herself an eye patch from mom's band aids. The frog races where also a highlight for them followed by dancing. The night of the crew talent show my guys where too exhausted to stay up so it was just us girls. We laughed our selves silly a the funny corny show and we topped the evening off with the Macarana. Another funny thing happened as folks began to realize our kids weren't going to be badly behaved or rude they became so friendly it was great. People we didn't even know cheered us as we climbed the crows nest. People called us aside to show us pictures of the kids at pirate night, frog races etc that they had taken. The atmosphere was just wonderful. Apart from that first day we never felt anything but warmth and acceptance.All too soon it was over and we sadly disembarked but then spent another great week touring the Panama Canal zone. As we booked the Star Clipper, what our cruise agent was most worried about was "will the kids be board?" The truth of the matter was they where actually exhausted by the end of every day because there was a lot of fun things to do. However, I do have to caveat a few things. Our kids are used to vacations in the US National parks where there is no TV and a fun time is a ranger lead campfire. We also came prepared, our own DVDs and a Nintendo DS for each kids with plenty of games. Also I wouldn't want to be chasing after a toddler as the tours require a degree of mobility and a kid screaming in the dinning room would not be good, but for a family with tweens (7-13). It was great.If your family loves adventure its a blast! My daughter is already scheming to do one of their Mediterranean cruises. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
Just returned from our Vantage booked Star Flyer cruise of Costa Rica and Panama. I will not repeat what Budaman wrote, since his review was pretty accurate as to what we experienced. Our cabins were the same and I agree Nelson and ... Read More
Just returned from our Vantage booked Star Flyer cruise of Costa Rica and Panama. I will not repeat what Budaman wrote, since his review was pretty accurate as to what we experienced. Our cabins were the same and I agree Nelson and Herman were outstanding as was Ximena. However, there are a few things I wish I had been aware of before I booked this trip and since I think they are important, that's what I'll report on here: 1. Star Flyer carries about 170 passengers and has two swimming pools. 12 chaise lounges under tarps is not enough shade on the sun deck. The weather in Costa Rica was bright sunshine, hot and humid every day and unless you were comfortable lying in the sun for hours at a time, there was very little shade. 2. Ship only docked in one port(Golfito) all others required tender. Now, if you have ANY problems going up or down a ladder, please reconsider this ship. Since it's a sailing vessel you leave and reboard the ship via gangway, which is about 1 1/2 stories long, very steep and both steps and handrails move. This coupled with the relative movement between the tender and the bottom of the gangway caused one person in our group to fall after which others were afraid to leave the ship at all. There were also several "wet" landings, which means that after the tender gets where it's going you jump off the rear of the tender into the water which can be anywhere from ankle to waist deep! Several people fell into the water and I got my hand caught between the ladder and the tender when reboarding at Isla Gamez. The crew was very helpful but it was still very difficult. 3. Shore excursions: What a surprise to find out that only a handful of people would actually be able to get a shore excursion! Virtually all of the excursions offered closed after 20-40 people signed up and others were on a waiting list. There were people in our group unable to get ANY excursions because by the time they got through the line all the good ones were filled. IMHO this is totally unacceptable. Excursion to wildlife rescue center and orchid garden very over-priced....we were supposed to spend two hours at refuge and only spent one and the gardens were lovely but not worth 80E per person!Other than that one, the excursions to the mangrove forest of Drake Bay and Manuel Antonio NP, which were by the same company, were outstanding. The BBQ on Isla Gamez was wonderful but Isla Tortuga is a rip-off! They actually charged you to walk through their garden grounds! 4. Food: Herman was a delight and the food was really good with a nice selection of fish, meat or vegetarian at every dinner. Only complaint is that they need more waiters and they need to do something to lower the noise level, which is deafening, especially if you wear a hearing aid. 5. Air Conditioning: Sorry guys, but the advertised "individually controlled climate control in every cabin" isn't quite accurate. There is a/c duct in the ceiling over the beds with minimal amount of air coming through and you could NOT control the temperature. If you are in the cabin at night with the lights on, it quickly becomes a sauna! A/C doesn't mean turn off the lights and stay out of the cabin till it cools off! :) Also, in the dining room the a/c was totally inadequate once the room filled with people, which was every night! Only rooms that were consistently comfortable were the library and the piano bar. Read Less
Sail Date February 2011

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