Costa Rica with Wind Star Cruise 2011

Judy, Trypp & Pat on Wind Star bowsprit

For Immediate Release
May 9, 2011
Contact:  Judy Duran, CTA; 720 270-5767;

Centennial, CO.  Professional Travel Planner, Judy Duran, and her partner, Trypp the Traveling Elephant, recently returned from a week-long cruise aboard the sailing yacht, Wind Star.  They report they both enjoyed very different, yet equally delightful, cruise experiences while sailing along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

“I was sailing with my husband, Pat, to celebrate our 40th anniversary.   Trypp was along to take some of the reporting off my hands so Pat and I could enjoy this special time together,” says Duran.  “When we embarked in Puerto Caldera, the ship’s hotel manager, Jeffrey, welcomed us by saying that we should regard the ship as our own personal yacht for the next 7 days. The staff and crew of the Wind Star certainly allowed all three of us to do just that in very different ways,” she adds.

This was the first trip Duran had taken with Trypp since forming a partnership with the pachyderm.  “Believe me, during our first day out, which was a day at sea, I was beginning to wonder if I’d made a big mistake taking Trypp on as a partner,” Duran says.  She claims the elephant immediately began walking on the wild side.  “But in the end, I realized that she was taking on all the busy activities so that Pat and I could just relax.”

One of the activities which the elephant and the Duran’s all participated were the evening briefings on the next day’s schedule and activities by cruise host, Sam.  The briefings took place in the ship’s lounge just prior to dinner.  Hors d’oeuvres and, sometimes, complimentary champagne or wine were served during the briefings.  “Sam’s presentations were a hoot!” says Trypp. “He had a dry wit that made what could have been some pretty routine topics very entertaining.” 

“The first night’s briefing was particularly delightful,” says Duran.  “The Wind Star’s Captain greeted each passenger individually as we arrived at the yacht’s lounge.”  During the briefing he introduced all the officers and crew managers and gave a short bio on each.  The ship’s officers are British; the department managers mostly from the U.S.; the kitchen staff Filipino; and the crew Indonesian. 

Captain Chris Norman explained some of the fundamental details of managing and sailing the Wind Star and the ship’s history.  The Wind Star, built in Le Havre, France, was launched in 1986.  It was a revolutionary in concept and design with its sleek design and computerized controls.  It is officially registered as a “masted-sail yacht” (MSY) in the Bahamas. 

“On a larger cruise ship, you never see the captain, even during the Captain’s Reception, let alone get such a personal greeting and briefing on the nitty-gritty,” says Duran.  “Captain Chris and all of the officers were accessible during the entire week.  And there’s an ‘open bridge’ policy.”

The first morning both the Duran’s and Trypp attended a presentation by the Wind Star’s naturalist, Carlos, on the ports-of-call and Costa Rica’s natural history and biodiversity.  Carlos, a native of San Juan, only sails with the Wind Star on its Costa Rica itineraries.  He was on-hand at every port-of-call to answer passenger questions and offer touring tips.  At other times Carlos was available to give advice on further touring within Costa Rica.

“Between the three of us, only Trypp and I took a shore excursion, the zipline at Playa del Coco,” says Duran.  “We found that much of what was offered on the shore excursions could be done independently at our leisure.  Some cruise lines push their shore excursions relentlessly from the time you book.  We never felt pressured by Wind Star to sign up for shore excursions.”



Trypp & Judy prepare to zipline at Playa del Coco; kayak at Bahia Drake; hike in Curu Reserve


Other activities the Duran’s and elephant enjoyed together were the post-dinner sing-alongs and dancing in the lounge with the very talented Buddy, the ship’s pianist; afternoon snacks on the pool deck with entertainment also by Buddy; the local entertainment brought aboard during the cocktail hour in the ports of San Juan del Sur and Quepos; the photo op on the yacht’s bowsprit with First Officer Georgina; the barbeque on the beach at Tortuga Island; kayaking at Bahia Drake off the ship’s watersports platform; a hike through the Curu Reserve; and the “incomparable and sumptuous” open-air buffet dinner on the fourth night. 

Duran says, “Although it sounds like we spend a lot of time together, Trypp gave us our space knowing that we were there to celebrate and to just totally relax.” 

“Likewise, the Duran’s gave me space to let loose my wilder nature so that I didn’t feel like an intruder during this special time for Judy and Pat,” adds Trypp.

The Pachyderm Experience

Trypp started each morning with the Walk-A-Mile on Water group, followed by a Pilates class.  The first day at sea, she attended the Discover SCUBA class in the ship’s pool, followed by a SCUBA briefing on the three dive opportunities offered during the cruise. 

“I was pretty much all over the ship,” says Trypp, “and went into every port with a different group.  With the Wind
Star only accommodating 148 passengers, it was a really friendly cruise experience and easy to get to know people.”

“Navigating the ports-of-call was a snap even for an elephant,” says Trypp.  “They were intimate and colorful little fishing villages or small towns which provided services outside of Costa Rica’s vast natural preserves.  In fact, the only way into Corcovado is via water from Bahia Drake.  The ships from other cruise lines are just too big to get into the bay.” 

Duran noted she passed on several activities on the yacht, such as the spa services and casino, but the elephant might have tried them.



Trypp sunning in hammock cooling off on pool deck; taking the helm. . .

     Trypp Inspecting Wine Selection          

. . . Inspecting wine selection in Main Dining room; enjoying a cocktail at bar in Lounge; at open-air buffet on Pool Deck. . .


. . . Walking on Wild side at Curu Reserve; eco-lodge at Bahia Drake; returning to ship after afternoon on town with Wind Star crew (look at the smile on that guy’s face!)


“We’d see her now and then,” says Duran, “but Trypp hasn’t said too much about what she did when she was off on her own.  And I’m afraid to ask!”

“You don’t want to know!” says Trypp.

The Duran’s Experience

“Pat and I had a fairly stressful year and we just wanted to crash,” says Duran.  “The last vacation by ourselves was in the year 10 B.C., Before Children!  We had an absolutely amazing and totally relaxing time aboard the Wind Star.”

Pat concurred that it was the best vacation he’d ever taken. “In fact, we enjoyed it so much, we’re thinking about taking the 14-day trans-Atlantic repositioning cruise in another year or two.  We were told that the trans-Atlantic itinerary is under sail almost 100% of the time.  It’s extraordinarily peaceful and beautiful under sail.” 

“Crash” they did, according to Duran.  “What was great about the Wind Star compared to other cruises is that there was enough to do to keep from getting bored, but not so much that we felt like we were missing something unless we ran ourselves ragged.”

Duran reports that they’d usually be up on the pool deck by 5 a.m. to enjoy watching the sun rise over the water.  At 6 a.m., coffee, juice, fruit, pastries, cold cuts, cheeses, cereals and yogurt were served on the pool deck.  After a small repast, the Duran’s would return to their cabin to get ready for the day’s activities, then return to the Veranda restaurant on the pool deck for a choice of a full buffet breakfast or one made-to-order from the menu.

After breakfasting, they’d disembark at the day’s port-of call.   “Most of the ports were pretty quaint and laid back,” says Duran.  “There was shopping for local crafts and waterfront restaurants.  At all but one port we made wet landings by Zodiac, which was really something you don’t experience on most cruises.  Fortunately, we didn’t encounter any of the crocs known to inhabit the waters along many of Costa Rica’s Pacific beaches, but they added an element of adventure to our wet landings!”



Port of San Juan del Sur, NI; beachfront bar at San Juan del Sur; colorful market outside Manuel Antionio National Park, Quepos, CR. . .


. . . anniversary dinner on Pool Decek; anniversary cake.


At San Juan del Sur, an hour-long call to the U.S. cost only about $2.50 at an internet café, “So we checked up on things at home.”  Duran said their port activities were pretty tame, except for ziplining with Trypp at Playa del Coco.  “Quepos was the largest port with the most variety and pristine beaches adjacent to Manuel Antonio National Park, but still very laid back.  There was a charming eco-resort at Bahia Drake, which was the most scenic of all the ports.  Curu Reserve was quite primitive.  We hiked for a little over an hour through a dense rainforest over hanging bridges and a natural trail.  We saw a large troop of cavorting Howler monkeys and a couple of the more elusive Capuchians, plus some Blue Morphos, among the largest of all butterflies.” 

“We’d usually only last about an hour in port.  It was pretty hot and muggy,” says Pat.  “We’d stop at one of the waterfront cafes and enjoy a tall cool Corona Michelada before returning to the ship.”

Their afternoons started with a buffet lunch at the Veranda restaurant on the pool deck.  Afterwards, they’d return to their “very comfortable” state room for “some serious chilling,” says Duran.  “The staterooms were surprisingly large and well-appointed for such a small vessel.”  They would check out a DVD from the Wind Star’s extensive selection in the yacht’s library or watch a movie on satellite TV on the cabin’s flat-screen TV. 

At Bahia Drake, Judy kayaked with Trypp from the watersports platform at the Wind Star’s stern.  Not a diver, Judy enjoyed the snorkeling excursion by Zodiac while anchored at Quepos, and again from the beach at Tortuga Island with the Wind Star’s sports coordinators, Carin and Ridlon. (See below.) 

After meeting Trypp on the pool deck to compare notes over the afternoon snack of fruit, cheeses, cold cuts and salads, they’d return to their stateroom for to prepare for the evenings activities, starting with Sam’s briefing over cocktails in the lounge.

They usually ate in the main dining room, seated with one or two other couples.  “But on the evening of our anniversary, we decided that a romantic candlelight dinner at a table for two on the top deck sounded too good to pass up,” says Duran. “Our waiter surprised us with a lovely cake commemorating the occasion and sang ‘Happy Anniversary.’”  

After dinner, they adjourned to the bridge where the officer-on-watch discussed navigating by the stars while pointing out the various constellations, including the Southern Cross, on a “stunningly starry night.”

The Duran’s declare it “a perfect anniversary.” 

“I didn’t see them all evening,” says Trypp.  “I have no idea what else they did.” 

“You don’t want to know!” says Duran.  



Wind Star at anchor; our stateroom


Kayaking from Wind Star watersports platform

The Watersports Experience.

Both Durans and Trypp agree that the dive and snorkeling experience aboard the Wind Start were exceptional.

“Most other cruise lines subcontract diving and snorkeling to shore excursion operators who often crowd their dive boats, charge a hefty extra fee and just drop a bunch of people into the water with little direction in the same areas that other operators use,” says Trypp.  All watersports activities offered by the Wind Star are led by the yacht’s very capable sports coordinators, Carin and Ridlon.  The number of participants is limited.

“It was terrific not having someone else’s flippers constantly in your face,” says Duran.  “Our group of 5 was the only snorkelers in the area at Quepos.  The Wind Star’s small size was a big factor in providing such a quality dive and snorkeling experiences as it can access undeveloped ports not accessible to larger cruise ships.”

“Shore excursion operators tend to put you down for 20 minutes, then move to another area.  On a 2-hour excursion, you might spend 40 minutes in the water before ‘time’s up!’  Carin and Ridlon didn’t rush us at all.  We got to spend practically the whole time in the water.” 

“Carin and Ridlon were right there in the water with us.  If we saw something interesting, we could get their attention to ask questions.  And when they’d find something interesting to see, they’d wave us over.  They were very knowledgeable about the sea life we encountered.”

“Snorkeling was much better that I expected.  I never snorkeled before in the open water of the Pacific and did not expect to see so many colorful fish in such clear water.  I expected that the wave action would be kicking up too much sand to have a quality snorkeling experience, but Carin and Ridlon knew exactly where to take us for a really great experience. 

Trypp’s comments were equally favorable about the SCUBA program. 

“It was better than some of the dive destinations in the Caribbean.   The water was much warmer than I expected.”

Duran Kayaked with Trypp for about 3 miles at Bahia Drake from the Wind Star’s watersports platform on the lower deck.  “Ridlon told us to take the kayak anywhere we want as long as we could be seen from the yacht,” says Duran.  “I could see the yacht, but apparently the crew couldn’t see us.  We were having such a good time out there we had no idea how far we’d paddled.  Next thing I know, one of the crew pulled up beside us in the Zodia to make sure we were all right.  That kind of personal attention and concern is not something a large cruise provides.”

Snorkeling equipment and excursions are offered at no additional cost, as are all activities off the watersports platform (kayaking, windsurfing, waterskiing, sailing).   The dives were additional, but “quite reasonable compared to other cruise or resort SCUBA programs,” according to Trypp.

For Immediate Release                                                                        
April 10, 2011
Contact:  Judy Duran, CTA:  720 270-5767;
Centennial, CO. 

Centennial, CO.  Travel partners Trypp, the Traveling Elephant, and Judy Duran, Professional Travel Planner, returned recently from their 13-day trip to Costa Rica.  Both declare the “Pura Vida” destination a nation with wide appeal for visitors.


San Jose landmarks, from left:  Gran Hotel, Catedral Nacional    

“‘Pura Vida’ is the expression the ticos use to greet one another,” explains Duran.  “It means ‘Pure Life’ in reference to the country’s dedication to protecting its natural resources.  But the great diversity in this tiny country makes it a destination with wider appeal than just eco-tourism.”

Costa Rica is well-known as a eco-tourism mecca, with 18% of the country preserved as national parks and another 13% as privately-owned sanctuaries.  It’s bio-diversity is unrivaled:  In just under  20,000 square miles it boasts 12,000 species of plants, 1,239 species of butterflies, 838 species of birds, 440 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 232 species of mammals.  One protected strip of forest runs uninterrupted for 40 miles through nine ecological zones from sea level to 12,500 feet above.

“About the only species noticeably missing are pachyderms,” noted the Elephant.

Duran says that a wide range of options exists even within the country’s eco-tourism choices.  “You can go for adventure, like white water rafting, zip-lining or SCUBA diving.  Or you can take a more passive route, enjoying the abundant native flora and fauna from the comfort of an air conditioned motor coach, easy hike or placid boat ride on one of the many lagoons or rivers through the rainforest.”

“But Costa Rica is not just about eco-tourism.  Its major city, though relatively small by world standards, is a bustling metropolis.”

Duran describes the streets of San Jose as teeming with people seven days a week.  Several small parks and plazas throughout the downtown host political speakers, live performances, celebrations and street performers. The busy Avenida Central is a hodgepodge of colorful shops and street vendors.




From top left: 1st Row –  Ticos stroll the Avenida Central mall on a Sunday morning, colorful stores & street vendors line the mall; 2nd Row – Typical fast food restaurants are a downtown staple, street performers pose for pictures along the Plaza de la Cultura, Trypp investigates Plaza de la Cultura pigeons with young tico friend

“San Jose’s pigeon population doesn’t take a back seat to any city in the world,” observed Trypp.

Of the variety of museums and attractions she cites the Teatro Nacional as one of the best.  “It doesn’t look like much from the outside,” Duran says, “but it goes on forever on the inside. And the ornamentation is breathtaking.”

The neo-classical theater was built in the 1890’s by coffee barons who taxed their own product after a European theater group snubbed the Costa Rican capital because it lacked an adequate theater.  Today the theater is home to the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional.  For a modest admission charge audiences enjoy several performances a week from classical music, theater and dance to more modern presentations.

A charming theater café offers refreshments and light meals throughout the day. The popular open-air  Plaza de la Cultura, adjoins the theater and the Museo del Oro, featuring pre-Columbian gold artifacts.  The museum occupies a space just behind the theater below street level.




From top left:  1st Row – Exterior & foyer; 2nd Row – Ceiling mural & ornamentation, gallery


Right across the street from the Teatro Nacional is the Grand Old Dame of San Jose, with the befitting name of Gran Hotel de Costa Rica.  The 1930’s structure “Oozes elegance,” states Duran.  “It can certainly hold its own again the other grand dames of the world:  the Ritz, the Brown, Claridge’s.”

“I planned the trip with my husband to celebrate our 40th Anniversary,” says Duran, “So Trypp graciously opted to remain at our suburban hotel while Pat and I enjoyed our last day in Costa Rica without her.”  They enjoyed an al fresco breakfast on the Gran’s front terrace adjacent to the open air lobby.  Later in the day, they returned to the terrace for a cool and calming respite from the heat, humidity and humanity of shopping in the busy central city.

“We just couldn’t pass up the appeal of a cold Corona Michelada from the comfort of a leather love seat while enjoying the music of the Gran’s Sunday afternoon pianist.”

“From eco-tourism and city-tourism, there are plenty of other options to appreciate in Costa Rica,” according to Trypp.  Among the many tourism choices the pachyderm cites are rest and relaxation at the many beachfront resorts; more than five active volcanoes; hot springs; cities of historical significance; coffee plantations; whale watching; indigenous cultures; surfing; and volun-tourism, including monitoring Costa Rica’s sea turtles on both coasts.



From top left:  1st Row – Poas Volcano signage, steam flume; 2nd Row – Secondary crater at Poas,  Sarchi oxcart on road to Poas; Trypp inspecting coffee at Doka Estates plantation & mingling with pachyderm friends at Poas souvenir shop


While Duran usually prefers independent touring to organized trips, she says the trio wanted to get the most complete picture possible of the country in the few days they had to tour before their cruise.  “It’s common knowledge that Costa Rica’s highways are pretty primitive and driving is challenging.  Pat took one look at the situation and decided we’d be better off with organized tours.”  Among the options chosen were tours to the Poas Volcano National Park and the Doka Estates coffee plantation.

“We used three different tour companies purposely so that we’d be able to make the best recommendation to our clients,” says Trypp.  “All of them had well-informed and entertainingbi-lingual tour guides.  But the one company that stood out for having the most comfortable transportation was Swiss Travel.  Their motor coaches were the most accommodating for adult human and pachyderm statures.”

“We were able to get a good picture of the interior from our base near San Jose and of the Pacific Coast from the ports-of-call on our cruise,” Duran commented.  “We did not get to the Eastern provinces, which we understand have a more Caribbean flavor and ethnicity.”

“We’ll be back,” adds her pachyderm partner.  “One trip is simply not enough to enjoy all the many choices Costa Rica offers.”

“We won’t say ‘Adios’ to this spectacular destination, but ‘¡Hasta luego, Pura Vida!’”

For Immediate Release
April 10, 2011
Judy Duran, CTA
Contact:  720 270-5767;

Centennial, CO. Frontier Airline’s seasonal direct non-stop service from Denver to Costa Rica was recently lauded by professional travel planner, Judy Duran, and her travel partner, Trypp, the Travelling Elephant.  The Airbus 319 service was provided by Frontier tail, Pete the Pelican.

“It’s the only non-stop flight between Denver and Costa Rica,” says Duran.  “Our travel time between Denver and San Jose was just 5 hours.  On any other airline it would have been at least 8 hours each way.”

The Elephant noted that Frontier also offers seasonal non-stop service between Denver and Liberia, the closest international airport to the Guanacaste beach resorts along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.  “And from a multitude of other cities, Frontier has one-stop service through Denver to both destinations in Costa
Rica,” says Trypp.

“Connecting through DIA [Denver International Airport] with all flights arriving and departing on Frontier’s A Concourse is much more convenient than connections on other airlines through Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and the like.”

Frontier offers daily red-eye service to both destinations, allowing travelers to make the most of their time in Costa Rica.  In-flight soft drinks and juices are provided complimentary with alcoholic beverages, snacks and salads and sandwiches available for a minimal charge.  “The salads sandwiches are from Udi’s,” says Duran. “They are known throughout the Denver area for their fresh high-quality
salads and breads.”

Frontier and Midwest Airlines were both acquired by Republic Airways Holdings in 2009.  Shortly thereafter, Frontier began serving Midwest’s signature chocolate chip cookies during most of its flights.  “The delicious cookies were a welcome treat about 3 hours into the flight,” says Duran.  “They helped break up the monotony of a long flight and put a smile on everyone’s face.”


Sal the Cougar Profile

Favorite Play: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

Hobby: Stand Up Comedy

Quote: “Aviation’s a tough business. It comes with a lot of baggage.”

Last job: Installed Mufflers. Found it exhausting.

Pet Peeves: Hecklers. Being called a Puma.  Shedding.

Words of Wisdom: “You only have nine lives. Make them count.”


Sal the Cougar, a long-time tail veteran of Frontier [see sidebar] provided the return Airbus service to Denver.  While Sal and the Pelican have not yet met, Sal insists that Frontier only hires the best.

“I haven’t heard his tale yet,” says Sal, “but rest assured his credentials are impeccable.”

Both Duran and the pachyderm recommend Frontier service to Costa Rica.  Asked if they would make any changes to Frontier’s Costa Rica service, Duran said, “Absolutely not.  I think it’s the best available.”

“I’d change the cookies,” says Trypp.  “Peanut butter is the preference of most pachyderms.”

For Immediate Release
April 20, 2011
Contact:  Judy Duran, 720 270-5767;

 Centennial, CO. Travel insurance prevented a distressing loss when their camera took a dive in the surf, reports travel planner Judy Duran and Trypp, the Traveling Elephant. The incident occurred during a wet landing at a port-of-call during their recent Wind Star cruise in Costa Rica.

Trypp explained her travel partner was disembarking the Zodiac at Tortuga Island when the camera slipped out of Duran’s beach tote. The Wind Star cruise crew, staff and other passengers quickly gave chase to the drowning camera. “It was recovered in less than five minutes,” says Trypp. “But by then it had been severely tossed in the surf.”

“I was devastated,” says Duran. “Not only was it a brand new camera, but Tortuga was our last port-of-call and almost at the end of our time in Costa Rica. Over 300 pictures were recorded on the memory card.”

The ship’s staff assisting the disembarkation helped Duran open the camera to remove the memory card. Both were immediately rinsed with fresh water to prevent any corrosion from the salt in the sea water. “They saved my pictures,” say Duran. “When I returned home, I downloaded the memory card onto my computer and the pictures came right up.”

The camera was not as fortunate. The Elephant reports that it was determined to be a total loss from water and sand damage. “We were disappointed, but cameras can be replaced. Pictures can’t.”

Trypp with surfing camera

Remembering that she had purchased trip protection insurance for the Costa Rica vacation, Duran checked her policy. She found that coverage for loss of personal effects was one of the policy’s provisions. “So many people take trip insurance for the same reason I did,” says Duran, “To cover any loss that might occur if the trip is cancelled due to illness or injury to themselves or a family member, or from medical costs incurred while traveling.”

“The right travel protection plan can cover so much more.”

Duran’s travel policy not only will reimburse her for the loss of the camera, but also for the cost of replacing her laptop’s AC adapter/power cord damaged by the electrical current at her San Jose hotel. “My policy carried coverage for missed connections, financial default, emergency evacuation and, God forbid, ‘repatriation of remains,’ among other things.” Duran advises that trip protection purchased separately from a dedicated travel insurer rather than the cruise line or tour operator is usually the best value. “An experienced travel professional can determine the policy most suitable for an individual’s needs.”

The travel duo expects to receive reimbursement from the insurance provider in two-to-four weeks. “We’ve been pretty much left whole after what could have been a very dismal situation thanks to travel insurance,” proclaims Trypp. “The loss of the adapter prevented us from daily blogging our trip as we’d hope to do, but if catching up on our blogging now that we’re home is the worst that came out of what could have been totally calamitous, we consider ourselves fortunate, indeed.”

“I’m grateful for the Elephant’s legendary memory to help recreate our journey for our blog,” adds Duran.

“Let the blogging begin. . .”