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Lions and tigers and bears… or in the case of Cruise West’s Costa Rica summer family cruises -- monkeys and sloths and parrots, oh my! Cruise West’s six-night “Summer Adventure” cruises, aboard the 100-passenger Pacific Explorer, combine learning and fun for children and their parents and grandparents. The lush tropical coastline of Costa Rica, between Nocoya Peninsula and the palm-lined and orchid-trimmed beach of Golfo Dulce, is the perfect setting for children to go on short jungle hikes, searching out any of four species of monkeys, take Spanish lessons, water ski, play beach games and bounce along on ‘banana-boat’ rides. Activities shared with parents include wildlife walks, Zodiac river trips to jungle-canopied swimming pools, snorkeling with colorful tropical fish, kayaking in the calm coves and beach barbecues. Weekly Saturday departures from San José, Costa Rica’s capital city, run from June 19 through July 24 and are priced from $1,595 to $2,695, double occupancy. Children ages 12 and under and sharing a cabin with an adult save 50%; ages 13 through 21 save 25%. A limited number of triple cabins are available. Prices include all shore activities.

English-speaking Costa Rican naturalist guides take groups on hikes through the exotic flora and fauna of the rain forests, pointing out the exotic wildlife -- spider, capuchin, howler and squirrel monkeys; sloths, black iguanas, coatimundis, and hundreds of brilliantly hued birds -- many of them classified as endangered species. An especially rare experience is a jungle walk through the mysterious pre-Columbian artifacts of Caño Island. Near-perfect giant stone spheres, some up to six feet in diameter and weighing up to 16 tons, lay on the ground, mantled by centuries of jungle growth. Their purpose and how they arrived on the island has never been fully explained to the satisfaction of professional archeologists. Caño is also a diving center, a treasure house of exotic marine life.

A cruise activities director keeps children engaged, at sea and ashore, with special activities tailored to age groups. A children’s dinner hour is served one hour before the adult seating. Adults can spend as much time as they want with the kids, but there’s always someone to look after them.

In addition, these Cruise West family adventures call at Curú Wildlife Refuge, Tortuga Island, Drake Bay, Manuel Antonio National Park, and the 100,000-acre Corcovado Conservation Area. The ship’s Zodiac launches give easy and efficient access to beaches, coves and reefs for swimming, snorkeling and kayaking. During evenings aboard ship, experts lecture and answer questions on local cultures, flora, fauna, legends and regional history. An American Cruise Coordinator accompanies the voyage, along with several highly-trained Costa Rican naturalists and a Children’s Activities Coordinator.

The 185-foot Pacific Explorer, built in 1995 and remodeled in 1998, provides a link between national parks, wildlife preserves and remote swimming beaches that are cut off from the rest of the world and from each other by sea and jungle. The ship has two lounges with picture windows all around, a book and video lending library, a sun deck with a bar and plenty of outside deck space for viewing and photographing wildlife and scenery. All cabins are air-conditioned with private baths, TV monitor/VCR and picture windows that open. Casual dress and open seating in the dining room contribute to the relaxed atmosphere on board. International cuisine, served in the dining room, on deck or on the beach, includes Central American specialties and children’s favorites.

Reservations, additional information and brochures can be obtained from travel agents and Cruise West, Suite 700, 2401 Fourth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121, telephone (800) 888-9378; fax (206) 441-4757; web site www.cruisewest.com

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