Sailing to Costa Rica Cruise: Wind Song, a 148-passenger schooner, visits during the winter.

Travel Q&A

March 29, 1998|By Jean Allen | Jean Allen,SUN SENTINEL, SOUTH FLORIDA

We're looking for a cruise that includes Costa Rica, which I'm told is a good way to see that country. Any suggestions?

Wind Song is the only ship of a major passenger line (Windstar Cruises) that offers Costa Rica on a regular basis. But this ship is a goody, a small, 148-passenger schooner whose six sails are computer-operated and deploy at the touch of a button. An auxiliary motor kicks in if the wind dies.

It operates one-week cruises that call at several ports on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast during the winter season.

The usual land tours, starting in the capital, San Jose, can involve long, tedious bus rides to reach some of the best national parks, natural wonders and abundant wildlife. Even the best hotels often air-condition only guest rooms, leaving the public areas, including dining rooms, open to muggy tropical temperatures. Returning to a ship after a day of exploring adds a comfort level.

Wind Song's current 16-cruise series was sold out well in advance. In fact, the ship has increased next winter's Costa Rica schedule to 21 one-week cruises starting in November, and reservations are already heavy.

Among the offerings are a trip through Corcovado National Park, home to 250 species of birds and 100 species of mammals; a float trip on the Corobici River; a visit to a pottery center; snorkeling and sea kayaking.

Wind Song, one of four computerized sailing ships of the Windstar fleet, sails in the southern Caribbean and Panama in spring and fall and in the Mediterranean in summer.

For details, see your travel agent or call Windstar Cruises, 800-258-7245.

I have taken several Caribbean cruises, but I never can remember how much I can spend without paying duty to U.S. Customs when I come home?

Americans can spend as much as $600 per person duty-free on purchases from most island nations of the Caribbean and Bahamas, providing one of those islands is the last stop on the cruise. Purchases over the $600 limit are taxed at the rate of 10 percent.

There are exceptions: Puerto Rico is an American commonwealth, and no customs duties are collected on any amount of purchases made there. But hang onto your receipts.

St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John, the American Virgin Islands, are U.S. possessions, and Americans can bring home $1,200 worth of total goods per person duty-free from these islands, or double the limit from nonpossessions. Over that amount, tax on the excess will be 5 percent.

Purchases in Mexico are duty-free on goods made in Mexico. Check the ship's purser if you're unsure what's included.

Fine art, such as a Haitian oil painting, is duty free.

Pub Date: 3/29/98

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