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Costa Rica is an ecotourist's paradise, and an ideal destination for a small-ship cruise. The region is one of the most bio-diverse in the world, with opportunities to see exotic wildlife on land and in the water. Combine that with beautiful beaches, water sports from snorkeling to kayaking, active land pursuits like hiking and ziplining and ports inaccessible to large cruise ships, and active travelers can revel in a unique cruise getaway. Many cruise lines stop in Costa Rica and Panama -- and many transit the Panama Canal -- but not many offer entire seasons exploring Costa Rica's Pacific Coast because their ships are simply too big. Windstar Cruises and Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic are two of the small-ship lines that offer cruisers the chance to immerse themselves in this Central American destination, combined with a full crossing of the Panama Canal. While both cruise lines visit roughly the same areas of Costa Rica and Panama, their trips and ships are markedly different. Windstar offers more of a typical cruise experience, with plenty of creature comforts and choice in what you do in port, but with onshore experiences priced a la carte. Lindblad is an expedition line and takes a more nature-based approach to the journey, with all excursions ashore and at sea included in your fare, and staffs its ships with expert naturalists and photographers. If you're looking for an off-the-beaten-path getaway in Costa Rica and a bucket list transit of the Panama Canal, we compare Windstar vs. Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic's cruises.
Ask cruisers, and most will tell you Panama Canal sailings fall somewhere on their bucket lists. There's plenty to be said for each port of call along the way, but the canal itself is the main event, offering an up-close look at an engineering marvel that has withstood more than a century of use by