Compass

Central America cruise picks for 2013

Compass

(Photo: Windstar Cruises)

Bridging continents, dividing oceans, and brimming with natural wonders, Central America is perfectly primed for travelers looking to sample the region’s tropical biodiversity and cross-cultural landscape via cruise ship.

Port calls along this generous coastline deliver encounters with remote stretches of sandy beaches, imposing volcanoes, lush rain forests and jungles, and small vibrant villages. From adrenaline junkies (try zip-lining through jungle canopies) to beach bums (lap up sun, surf, and sand with frothy drink in hand), nature lovers (snorkel in reef-rich waters) to culture vultures (jungle-clad Mayan ruins, anyone?), Central American excursions cater to a variety of visitors.

Plus, the burgeoning cruise region is close to home, refreshingly affordable, and offers seven countries to explore in relatively close proximity (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama), along with opportunities to transit the legendary Panama Canal.

Cruise ship options run the gamut from tall sailing ships with billowing white sails to luxury yachts to more mainstream megaships with all of the bells and whistles—and many feature extras like onboard naturalists to help pinpoint native wildlife and vegetation, along with guided excursion options designed to optimize the region’s unspoiled natural scenery, like kayaking, snorkeling, surfing, hiking, rafting, and more.

Read on for 10 of the best Central American cruise itineraries for the coming year.

1. Passage through Panama & Coastal Costa Rica on Windstar’s Tall Ships
Cruise Ship: 148-passenger Wind Star or Wind Spirit
Ports of Call: Costa Rica (Puerto Caldera, Bahia Drake, Golfito); Panama (Colon, Isla de Coiba, San Blas); Panama Canal transit
Cruise Length: 7 nights
Embarkation Dates: March 23; Dec. 8, 15, 22, 29
Book It: Rates from $1,999/person (special two-for-one fares end March 2); windstarcruises.com

(Photo: Princess Cruises)


2. Two-Week Panama Canal Crossing from L.A. to Ft. Lauderdale on Princess
Cruise Ship: 1,970-passenger Island Princess
Ports of Call: California (L.A.); Guatemala (Puerto Quetzal); Costa Rica (Puntarenas); Panama (Fuerte Amador); Panama Canal crossing; Aruba (Oranjestad); Colombia (Cartagena); Florida (Ft. Lauderdale)
Cruise Length: 15 nights
Embarkation Date: Nov. 14
Book It: Rates from $2,109/person; princess.com

(Photo: Lindblad Expeditions)


3. Costa Rica & Panama Canal Cruise with Lindblad Expeditions
Cruise Ship: 62-passenger National Geographic Sea Lion
Ports of Call: Panama (Colon, Barro Colorado, Gulf of Panama Islets, Isla Coiba National Park); Costa Rica (Golfo Dulce, Herradura, Osa Peninsula, Manuel Antonio National Park); Panama Canal transit
Cruise Length: 7 nights
Embarkation Dates: Nov. 16, 23, 30; Dec. 7, 14, 21, 28
Book It: Rates from $5,330/person (book by June 30 for free round-trip air from Miami); expeditions.com

(Photo: Regent Seven Seas Cruises)


4. Last-Minute RSSC Cruise from Miami to Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, More
Cruise Ship: 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator
Ports of Call: Florida (Miami, Key West); Cayman Islands (George Town); Mexico (Cozumel, Costa Maya); Belize (Belize City); Guatemala (Santo Tomás de Castilla); Honduras (Roatán)
Cruise Length: 10 nights
Embarkation Date: April 1
Book It: Rates from $4,599/person, including round-trip airfare from select cities; rssc.com

(Photo: Adventure Life)


5. Panama Adventure Sailings on Intimate Catamaran
Cruise Ship: 24-passenger Discovery
Ports of Call: Panama (Panama City, Darien Jungle, Pearl Islands, San Telmo, Barro Colorado, Portobelo); Panama Canal transit
Embarkation Dates: March 9; April 16, 23; June 11; Nov. 19
Cruise Length: 6 nights
Book It: Rates from $3,750/person; adventure-life.com


(Photo: SeaDream Yacht Club)


6. Upscale Yacht Sail to Costa Rica & Nicaragua on SeaDream Yacht Club
Cruise Ship: 110-passenger SeaDream I
Ports of Call: Costa Rica (Caldera, Playa el Coco, Playa Flamingo, Playa Potrero, Quepos, Tortuga Islands); Nicaragua (San Juan del Sur)
Cruise Length: 7 nights
Embarkation Date: Nov. 23; Dec. 7, 21
Book It: Rates from $3,999/person; www.seadream.com

(Photo: Holland America Line)


7. Panama Canal Crossing from Ft. Lauderdale to San Diego on Holland America
Cruise Ship: 1,380-passenger ms Amsterdam
Ports of Call: Florida (Fort Lauderdale); Aruba (Oranjestad); Panama Canal crossing; Costa Rica (Puerto Caldera); Nicaragua (Corinto); Mexico (Huatulco, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas); California (San Diego)
Cruise Length: 15 nights
Embarkation Date: May 1
Book It: Rates from $1,689/person; www.hollandamerica.com



(Photo: Sea Cloud Cruises)


8. Sea Cloud Cruises’ Holiday Cruise to Costa Rica, Nicaragua & Panama
Cruise Ship: 94-passenger Sea Cloud II
Ports of Call: Panama (Puerto Limon, Bocas del Toro, Golfo de San Miguel, Isla Coiba/Coiba National Park); Panama Canal transit; Costa Rica (Golfito, Playa San Josecito, Herradura, Playas del Coco, Islas Tortugas, Puerto Caldera); Nicaragua (San Juan del Sur)
Cruise Length: 14 nights
Embarkation Date: Dec. 19
Book It: Rates from $7,995/person; www.seacloud.com

(Photo: Star Clippers)


9. Cruise to Costa Rica & Nicaragua on Tall Sailing Ships of Star Clippers
Cruise Ship: 170-passenger Star Flyer
Ports of Call: Costa Rica (Puerto Caldera, Playa del Coco, Cuanjiniquil, Playa Flamingo, Islas Tortugas); Nicaragua (San Juan del Sur)
Cruise Length: 7 nights
Embarkation Date: March 10; Dec. 1, 15, 29
Book It: Rates from $1,360/person; www.starclippers.com

(Photo: Celebrity Cruises)


10. Celebrity Holiday Cruise from San Diego to Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, more
Cruise Ship: 1,814-passenger Celebrity Century
Ports of Call: California (San Diego); Mexico (Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta); Guatemala (Puerto Quetzal); Costa Rica (Puntarenas); Panama (Colon); Panama Canal Transit; Colombia (Cartagena); Florida (Fort Lauderdale)
Cruise Length: 15 nights
Embarkation Date: Dec. 21
Book It: Rates from $1,799/person; celebritycruises.com

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