Beating the Heat in Bahia Drake, Costa Rica
Cocktail of the Day
: Sea Breeze. Vodka, cranberry & grapefruit juice, garnished with a grapefruit.
This morning, Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze dropped anchor in the emerald-green seas off Bahia Drake, Costa Rica. Bahia Drake – or Drake Bay – is thought to have been used by Sir Frances Drake in the 16th century as a sort of pirate cove. It’s a good place to stash some loot; the bay is entirely inaccessible by road during the wet season, and most of the village’s 1,000 inhabitants use boat transportation to get around.
Picture Costa Rica: You’re probably envisioning Bahia Drake. With its swaying palm trees, brightly-colored boats and houses inset into hills obscured by vegetation, this is the quintessential idyllic paradise.
This is where the Star Breeze comes in. If you take a look at Windstar’s marketing, you’ll see references not to your cruise ship, or your ship, or even the horrifically incorrect term ‘boat.’ Instead, Windstar refers to its ships as yachts. Star Breeze plays the part by looking every bit like a millionaire’s yacht; a playtoy in the Pacific for the independently wealthy. Arriving in Bahia Drake: island hideaway extraordinaire. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
But moreso on this itinerary, Star Breeze reveals herself to be perfectly adapted to small, out-of-the-way ports of call like this. You’d never see some massive ship like Oasis of the Seas rolling up on the small town of Bahia Drake; Columbus did that back in 1502 and things went south in a hurry. Instead, we’re just one of a handful of yachts anchored in the bay to spend a day in paradise – though paradise is arguably found here onboard Star Breeze herself.
Sweating It Out In The BayThe landscape here is lush and dense. Someone described it as being, “like Jurassic Park.” Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
When Christopher Columbus, the geographically challenged father of North America, landed in Costa Rica in 1502, locals presented him with gifts of gold. Because blind assumption had worked so well for him up until that point, he once again incorrectly concluded that the native Costa Ricans were flush with untold wealth. Hence the name. Costa Rica: the rich coast.
After a leisurely breakfast in The Veranda on Deck 7 aft, I took one of the Zodiac rafts ashore to do a bit of independent exploring. Bahia Drake is little more than an assortment of rustic houses and open-air bars tucked up in the hills, but it sure is beautiful. It’s also worth your time to go ashore, even if your idea of paradise is only ambling up to the bar and ordering an ice-cold cerveza (beer), or doing some souvenir shopping.
Bahia Drake has a number of coastal trails that you can explore, including miles of beach and coastline to either end of the tender pier. The main beach is a bit of a hike, though, so bring appropriate hiking boots; your flip-flops won’t be able to cope with the uneven, sometimes muddy terrain.
I absolutely loved Bahia Drake for the short time I was there. After about 90 minutes, I returned to the tender pier, beaten into submission by the unrelenting heat and humidity that pushed the mercury past 34°C with some of the highest humidity I’ve felt since I was in Southeast Asia last November. My sunblock literally slid off my face, and I suspect my bug spray made things worse; I’ve got some fabulous burns on my arms where I applied it.
If you want to take part in an organized excursion, Windstar offers four ways to spend your day here. You can go ziplining through the Corcovado Canopy; spend a full day exploring the Osa Biological Corridor by land and sea; tour the Terraba-Sierpe wetlands and mangroves; or, go horseback riding along the coast of Bahia Drake, including free time to go for a swim in the beach. Just another day in paradise. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Which brings me back to Christopher Columbus. You didn’t think I’d forgotten about him, did you? The explorer never could conquer historical Costa Rica because he was beaten down by the heat – along with the locals, floods, swamps, and disease. So learn from his mistake: Go ashore in Bahia Drake, but bring water. Lots of it.
You Ask The Questions
A few readers wrote in to ask questions about the voyage so far. Three were on the same subject: Is the watersports platform open?
The answer: no. At least, not yet. Today, the swells are too great to safely open the platform. However, with so much beach so close at hand, this doesn’t seem to be an issue for the guests I’ve spoken with.
Another reader asked if I missed the sails present on Windstar’s first three vessels. While I sort of miss the sail-raising ceremony to Vangelis’s Conquest of Paradise score, Star Breeze makes up for this in other ways. The flag-raising ceremony that happens on departure is pretty cool, and I’d have to give Star Breeze the nod for larger suites, more public rooms, and for her generally welcoming feeling.
The last reader asked what Windstar provides free-of-charge on its voyages. Fortunately, I have the answer, taken from the 2016 Voyage Collection brochure:
- Champagne Welcome Reception
- Windstar-exclusive local Private Event on all voyages (excluding repositioning cruises)
- Onboard deck barbecue gala (dependent on weather conditions)
- Onboard entertainment
- All meals, in all venues
- All non-alcoholic beverages, including specialty tea and coffee drinks
- Plush bathrobes and slippers
- Fresh flowers and fruit in your stateroom or suite
- Marble-finished baths (power yachts only)
- Flat-screen TV and DVD Player (movie rentals are complimentary)
- Fully-equipped watersports platform and use of all equipment (weather-permitting)
- Access to the Open Bridge
That last one is particularly noteworthy: Many cruise lines like to say that tours of the navigation bridge aren’t possible due to security reasons. What they really mean to say is that tours of the navigation bridge aren’t possible, unless you pay us a lot of money.
Some mainstream lines offer behind-the-scenes tours that run into the hundreds of dollars per person. On Windstar, just look for the little placard that says “open” or “closed” on the door to the bridge. Of course, on the bridge you should always remain quiet, never touch anything, and follow any specific instructions the Officer of the Watch gives you.
Conquest of ParadiseToday, the swells were a bit extreme, causing Star Breeze to sway lightly from side to side. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Tonight is our official introduction to the Senior Officers and Hotel Department here onboard Star Breeze. At 6 p.m., Captain Roman Krstanovic invites guests to his Champagne Welcome Reception (a longtime cruising staple) in the Show Lounge on Deck 5 aft. This is followed by the introduction of the ship’s Senior Officers at 6:45 p.m., along with the introduction of Hotel department heads working under Hotel Manager Savvas Marotos.
This is followed by the Captain’s Welcome Dinner in the Amphora Restaurant on Deck 3, which I personally think is one of the most attractive rooms on the entire ship. Refitted with Windstar touches, it displays the understated elegance that Seabourn put into it nearly three decades ago, modified with better lighting, great soft fabrics, and attractive curtains that allow light from the porthole windows to diffuse in.
As our third day aboard Star Breeze comes to a close, guests are settling into their shipboard routines – myself included. So once again, I find myself in the Compass Rose lounge, drink on the go next to me, enjoying the warm atmosphere here onboard.
Which reminds me: It’s time to put the computer away and allow myself to soak in the evening here onboard. Tomorrow, after all, promises to be another exciting day on the Pacific. Goodnight! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Star Breeze - Costa Rica & Panama
|February 27, 2016||Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica||Embark||6:00 PM|
|February 28||Quepos, Costa Rica||7:00 AM||6:00 PM|
|February 29||Bahia Drake, Costa Rica||7:00 AM||5:00 PM|
|March 1||Golfo Duce, Costa Rica||8:00 AM||4:00 PM|
|March 2||Isla de Coiba, Panama||7:00 AM||6:00 PM|
|March 3||Balboa, Panama||5:00 PM||Overnight|
|March 4||Balboa, Panama / Transit Panama Canal||Overnight||1:00 PM |
Enter Canal: 5:00 PM
|March 5||Colon, Panama||7:00 AM||Disembark|
Our Live Voyage Report from onboard Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze continues tomorrow from Golfo Dulce (Puerto Jimenez), Costa Rica! Be sure to follow along with our adventures on Twitter @deckchairblog.