13 Reasons to Take a Central America Cruise with UnCruise

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There is no shortage of options when it comes to choosing a Central America cruise for your next vacation. Plenty of cruise companies have put together itineraries that explore what the region has to offer. 

One of those companies is UnCruise Adventures, a small ship company that prides itself on off the beaten path exploration and small capacity ships. I can argue that they offer one of the best itineraries in Costa Rica and Panama for many reasons. 

If you love national parks, adventure, exotic islands, unique cultures, wildlife and everything in between then you should look no further in your quest to find the perfect cruise in Central America. 

While there are plenty of reasons why we think UnCruise is the best, these 13 reasons stand out the most.

You can book our same itinerary here: Costa Rica & Panama—Canal, Culture, Adventure  

Be sure to tell them that Divergent Travelers sent you!

13 Reasons to Take a Central America Cruise with UnCruise Adventures

UnCruise Adventures- Central America cruise

Unique Itinerary

UnCruise has managed to put together a dream Central America cruise itinerary that shows you the very best of both Costa Rica and Panama. The itinerary sails open-jaw, meaning you depart from either San Jose, Costa Rica and end in Panama City, Panama, or vice versa.

We left San Jose and sailed south along the Pacific coast stopping at some remarkable national parks in Costa Rica before crossing into Panama. Once in Panama, we continued to sail along the Pacific coast before entering the Gulf of Panama.

The itinerary focuses on visiting lesser-known, off the beaten track places while also hitting some known highlights. The ship then transits the Panama Canal to the Caribbean Sea.

To read more about this itinerary, including a breakdown of all the stops, check out these articles:

Central America cruise UnCruise Adventures
The Safari Voyager anchored off the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica

Small Ship

This was not our first UnCruise, and our 6th small ship adventure, so we are no stranger to the incredible benefits that come with sailing on a small ship. It is really all about flexibility, as you can go anywhere if you’re small enough.

The Safari Voyager, the UnCruise flagship in Central America, has 32 cabins and can accommodate 62 guests. It is intimate, cozy and the perfect base for exploring. While small, it handled open seas well and allowed us to explore some incredible islands and bays.

There is nothing quite like leaving port on a small ship, waving in the distance at the massive mega-ships and their 1,000’s of passengers. It is just not possible to have the same experience that UnCruise provides on a giant ship.

Hiking - Central America Cruise UnCruise Adventures

Small-Group Sizes

There may be 62 people onboard but each day a number of excursions are offered, each with a number cap. This ensures that everyone enjoys the perk of small group sizes. As a photographer, I value this immensely.

Small groups are flexible and can adjust to the things they come across while out exploring. We can gather together fast when trying to not scare away wildlife. We can move faster on hikes. We can watch animals longer.

We’re given the chance to actually know the guides, hold conversations with them about the places we are visiting and share the experiences with them. We’re also able to meet everyone that we are traveling with and make friends much easier than with bigger numbers.

Central America Cruise - UnCruise
Happy hour snacks on the beach!

Food & Drinks are Included

Unlike on most bigger cruise ships, UnCruise is truly all-inclusive. There are no meal upgrades and no expensive drink tabs.

With a small group, there are designated dining times, and everyone dines together. Sometimes it is from a buffet with many options and sometimes it is a plated meal. There are plenty of snack offerings throughout the day and at happy hour.

The bar is always open. You can order any drink, any time.

kayaking in Panama - Divergent Travelers

All Excursions are included

Going along the same theme as the bar, you don’t pay extra for excursions if you cruise Central America with UnCruise.

Every day you will be offered a couple of options of activities, at no extra costs. Their whole goal is to get you off the ship and into the places that you chose to explore.

In doing this, they include everything, so nobody has to worry about their budget, and nobody gets left out. There is something magical about paying an all-in price and then being able to custom tailor your trip just how you want it.

hiking- Central America Cruise UnCruise
Jungle hike in Costa Rica

All the Hiking

When you book a Central America cruise with UnCruise, you’re booking an adventure. This means you are in for a real boot on the ground experience.

We are firm believers that the best way to explore a new place is on foot. When the ship weighs anchor in new places each day, you ride a skiff to shore and have the option to partake in different levels of hikes. Of course, not at every stop but you do a fair bit of hiking on this itinerary.

They often split the groups into soft, medium and hard hikes so you don’t have to be overwhelmed. The best part is that the guides on the ship know how to lead a proper hike.

You’ll not only be immersed in the new destination but learn everything there is to know about the area too.

Central America Cruise - UnCruise Adventures
Viewing dolphins from the skiff in Costa Rica

Skiff Tours & Wildlife Viewing

When we weren’t able to make a landing or came across a mangrove channel, we’d be offered the option to take a skiff tour. This gave us the opportunity to get into places we couldn’t otherwise see and 90% of the time they became great wildlife viewing tours.

The expert navigation and eagle eyes of the skiff drivers gave us the chance to see some pretty cool wildlife during these tours.

They also gave the guides the flexibility to make landings if they wanted and to get close to animals without disturbing them.

kayaking in Panama - UnCruise Adventures
Kayaking in the Guna Yala (San Blas) Islands, Panama

Kayaking Trips

If you’ve followed us for a while, you know we enjoy paddling. The Safari Voyager sails with a custom-built EZ-Dock system that allows you to launch their kayak fleet right from the ship.

This makes exploring the mangrove channels and beaches a breeze for guests. Some of the reasons we loved kayaking on our Central America cruise included beautiful quiet time with just the sound of the paddle hitting the water, intimate wildlife viewing and a totally different perspective of the surrounding area.

Snorkeling - Central America Cruise
Snorkeling at Granito de Oro, Panama

Snorkeling Adventures

Keeping to the ‘everything is included’ theme, each passenger is given full snorkeling set to use when they board the ship at the start of the cruise. This includes a mask, snorkel tube, fins and mesh bag.

The set is yours to use for the duration of the cruise and can be stored on the top deck. The bags and hooks have your room number on them so there is no confusion about which one belongs to you.

Having our own snorkel sets gave us some great flexibility to explore underwater during the trip. Every time we visited an island or beach, we were able to hop in the water and snorkel on our own schedule.

In some of the more technical spots, they also offered guided snorkels to circumnavigate islands and look for marine life.

hummingbird - Bird Watching in Costa Rica
Hummingbird in Costa Rica

Bird Watching Tours

When we made our first stop in Costa Rica at the Curu Wildlife Refuge and we were told there would be a dedicated bird watching tour, I just about died. Now, I am not a crazy birder (sorry if you are!) but I love to photograph and watch birds.

I also know that if you go on a bird watching tour, your chances of seeing other wildlife are high and that because of the nature of the tour, there will actually be time to observe and photograph the animals.

Every single time it was offered, I took the option. The tours often left early, sometimes as much as 2 hours before the other tours and we enjoyed peaceful, undisturbed wildlife watching on these outings.

Not to mention that Costa Rica and Panama are absolute bird watching meccas. If you love birds and wildlife, this offering is a major bonus.

Central America Cruise - UnCruise Adventures

Off the Beaten Path Landings

This Central America cruise is all about getting you off the beaten path. With a small ship and onboard fleet of skiffs, we were able to make landings in some of Costa Rica’s and Panama’s most remote national parks.

Following the coastline in Coiba National Park in a skiff, while admiring crystal clear water, pristine beaches and lush forests are not something easy to accomplish.

Sailing south into the Darien National Park, a notorious part of the world that operates almost no land tours, gave us the opportunity to meet the Embera people and get a taste for what life in the jungle is really like.

Hiking the entire circumference of Isla de Iguana, located in the middle of the Gulf of Panama is not your average day trip.

If you are looking for something different, something special than you’re considering the right trip.

transit Panama Canal - UnCruise Adventures
Transiting the Panama Canal at dusk

Transit the Panama Canal

A marvel in engineering, the Safari Voyager completes a full transit of the Panama Canal during this Central America cruise. As if that isn’t exciting enough, the enthusiastic guides spend the entire time awake (since you transit at night) telling you the entire history of the canal.

On a small ship, you can really get close to the action, meaning you get an inside look into the work involved in passing ships through the canal.

It is so much more than just sailing a channel. The ships are secured at every lock, manually. Seeing the men at work while we transited was impressive.

Embera Village - Darien Gap - Panama
Embera musician in the Darien Jungle

Visit the Embera Tribe in the Darien Jungle

As I’ve already mentioned, it is very hard to gain access to the Darien Jungle in a safe way. Not only is the stretch of land that connects Panama and Colombia filled with untouched primary rainforest, but it also serves as a hideout for some notorious drug lords and war guerillas.

Not to worry, going into the Darien is perfectly safe in the right hands. UnCruise sails into the protected waters of the Gulf of San Miguel where you depart the ship into traditional dugout canoes.

Sailing up a massive mangrove channel you are suddenly greeted by the people of the Mogue Embera tribe. The experience that follows is special and is reason alone to book this Central America cruise with UnCruise Adventures.

The experience lasts 2 hours and you have the opportunity to join the local people in their village. They are excited to show you their way of life, daily practices, customs, music, dance and art.

The interaction is natural and not forced. They were genuinely interested in us and asked as many questions to us as we did to them. It was an unfiltered look into life on different terms.

You can book our same itinerary here: Costa Rica & Panama—Canal, Culture, Adventure  

Be sure to tell them that Divergent Travelers sent you!

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We partnered with UnCruise Adventures to bring you this story. All opinions, photos, stories and insane love for ‘uncruising’ are 100% our own. As always. 

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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA

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