Has anyone taken the "Costa Rica and it's capital city San Jose" shore excursion? I am wondering if it is worth the price and the 11 hours of time?
also any advice on what to take in Cartegena? I was looking at "The best of Cartegena and Fortress".
Sailing on the Sun Princess November 19 and we aren't taking many tours at all. We'll see enough of Costa Rica while on the bus from the hotel in San Jose to the ship, plus I've been there on another Panama Canal cruise.
As for Cartagena, we did sign up for the 3 hour shopping and monastery tour.
Rest of the ports, we can do our own thing if we even get off the ship at all.
San Jose isn't much of a beauty and except for a nice museum, there isn't that much to see. If the ship offers anything into one of their national parks, do that instead. Costa Rica is famous for it's national parks, larger percentage of space dedicated to national parks than any other coiuntry in the world. On the other hand, Cartagena is fabulous. Simply the best example of Spanish Colonial architecture anywhere except for Havana. The old part of the city is fascinating and people still live, work and play there, no museum that. The new part of the city is high rises on a long, curved beach. This is where Colombians with money have their vacation homes. Colombians are wonderful people. I've been to Cartagena to stay for awhile and I absolutely love it. Enjoy!
I have heard that the San Jose all day tour is not worth it. If you have the Coriboci River Rafting tour with Lunch offered, that is a lot of fun and the lunch is nice. Go for it if you dock in Puntenaras.
You might want to do a tour of Sarchi (sp?). It's a marketplace way up in the mountains. Almost all are handmade wooden items, with very reasonable prices; especially the salad bowl sets. You couldn't touch them in the states for the prices they're asking. Nice ride up too.
I just returned from this trip last night, and posted comments on the ports of call under the topic "sun princess excursions" that's a little further down on this message board. You might want to check my second post in that thread for additional information.
You should be aware that the tour of San Jose involves two hours each way on a bus on narrow, winding mountain roads just to get there -- and that's if you don't hit traffic.
The people who went on the ecotours did seem to enjoy them, though they also reported that the bus rides were rather long and tedious.
I agree completely about Wes's comments about Sarchi, having just been there. The metal church that you will visit on the same tour also is a true work of art, and definitely worth seeing. Even on this tour, though, the bus ride (one hour each way) is somewhat tedious.
Puntarenas has a brand new cruise ship pier where the ship will moor upon arrival. It's really easy to wander into the historic fishing village of Puntarenas, which has not yet developed into a tourist trap, to shop for local items.
In Cartagena, all of the shore excursions are pretty similar. The major difference appears to be that one gets out to visit the fort (at the expense of some shopping time -- which was more than sufficient anyway), the second drives past the fort without getting out to tour it, and the third skips the fort completely in favor of more shopping time. Your choice.
BTW, you might want to check my post in the "sun princess excursions" threat on this message board for comments on the other ports of call.
Wes and Norm,
I did not see a tour or Sachi. Is it safe enough to hire a driver independently? If not what tour would you suggest?
Can we cancel our reservation for the San Jose tour when on board or can it be done before hand and how?
If you did not sign up in advance, it's not a problem since you can book shore excursions after you get aboard ship.
The roads in Costa Rica are in similar condition to what you would expect in rural America -- two lanes, reasonably maintained (but not perfect), and tending to twist and wind in mountainous terrain. The country is an oasis in the midst of its neighbors, and much less poverty-stricken. The people did seem friendly and, at least in the tourist area, genuinely honest.
In view of the distance to all of the attractions and the fact that you will see a great deal of the countryside when you transfer to or from the airport, you might want to consider skipping the excursions completely and just walking ashore in Puntarenas. The town's cruise ship pier is a new addition, so most of the shops apparently have not gotten into the typical "tourist trap" mode yet. Thus, it's a relatively normal Costa Rican fishing village. I know that's where I'm headed whenever I return there.