Recommended excursions Panama-canal cruise

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#1
61 Posts
Joined Jan 2011
Hi!

I´m going on a Panama canal cruise with my mother (I´m 30, she´s 60 years old), and I would love to have your ideas and recommendations on which excursions not to miss out on. Also appreciated if you have any tips on things not to miss in the different ports.

Our ports of call will be:

Cabo San Lucas

Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Quetzal

Puntarenas

Colon

Cartagena

Cheers!
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#2
Gulf Coast USA
883 Posts
Joined Jun 2007
[quote=lallarebecca;36372445]Hi!

I´m going on a Panama canal cruise with my mother (I´m 30, she´s 60 years old), and I would love to have your ideas and recommendations on which excursions not to miss out on. Also appreciated if you have any tips on things not to miss in the different ports.

Our ports of call will be:

Cabo San Lucas

Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Quetzal

Hi LRebecca: I just returned from Panama 11/25~28/2012. I was on a 3-day reposition cruise from MIA to Colon. I can only address POC for Colon.

My Friend Mario is a popular CC company many folks are pleased with. Locally, MFM is known as Almiza Tours. I used that company for the 3.5 days I was in Panama. In Colon, had pier pick up and did their CL007, Embera Indian Village tour. That was great. THe next day did the Highlights of Panama Miresflores Locks, Great again. Last day was Partial Canal transit, Great again. Also used Mario for transport from our hotel to PTY airport, Great again.

There are many other tour companies there. Colon is not a place to walk around. Very dangerous.

It might be helpful if you list the times you will be in each POC and what your interests are: such as history, walking, sightseeing, shopping, action activities. Also mention the time of year you will be there. There is a 9 month rainy season and it is usually hot/humid. So keep that in mind.

We had a fantastic time in Panama. Our focus was on the canal itself, but there is whale watching, the mountains and other things. Hope this helps in some way.
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#3
Mesa, Arizona
311 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
You might want to head over to your roll call and see if you can join a group. I am going to be on RCCL-Vision on 4/2. (It is your same itinerary.) We are starting to organize our groups. You may feel more comfortable if you see some friendly faces on the same tours with you.
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blondie from arizona

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#4
Greenville, SC, USA
51,264 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
I would also look over the excursions offered by your ship. Even if you plan to book privately, they will give you ideas.
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Paul
#6
2,341 Posts
Joined Sep 2010
Originally posted by lallarebecca
Hi!

I´m going on a Panama canal cruise with my mother (I´m 30, she´s 60 years old), and I would love to have your ideas and recommendations on which excursions not to miss out on. Also appreciated if you have any tips on things not to miss in the different ports.

Our ports of call will be:

Cabo San Lucas

Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Quetzal

Puntarenas

Colon

Cartagena

Cheers!
Just in case you check back even though this is a month old........We were very pleased with Greenway Tours in Puntarenas. They have several offerings so you could choose. It would give you a chance to get to the rainforest and see some of the country. We were back in time for me to shop for an hour or so among the beach vendors. In Cartagena we booked a tour with Dora. She also has several to choose from.
#7
Seattle, WA
97 Posts
Joined Sep 2006
DH and I returned last week from this very cruise (in reverse) on Celebrity Century. DH and I are 60, same age as you mother.

Cabo - Loved the Kayak and Snorkel trip booked privately through ShoreExcursionsGroup. There are a LOT of folks on the pier in Cabo who can hook you up with things to do, if you don't book something in advance.

Puerto Vallarta - took the ship's Walking Tour of PV. Just "OK" in our opinion, but we wanted a short and early tour and this was the only one that fit the bill for us. (After our early tour, we hopped in a cab and went to Costco for a taste-of-home!)

Puerto Quetzel - like many (maybe most others) we took the ship's "Antigua on your Own" bus to Antigua. This worked out fine for us; it's a very walkable city and you are given a map. The guide on the bus gave good geography and history info, and walking tips, on the way to Antigua. PQ has a pleasant tourist-y port facility, if you don't wish to go further afield.

Puntarenas - again, we used ShoreExcursionsGroup (which used Greenway Tours) and did a Rainforest walk with other added features. Didn't see much wildlife (too late in the day) but got a real feel for the people and land of Costa Rica. Some others on our little tour bus did zip-lining and loved it.

Colon - a member of our CC group arranged a 12-person tour with Roberto of Robtad's and it was wonderful - so very informative, and Roberto was so very patient. His English is excellent. If you have Martin Harrington speaking on your cruise, you should be sure to attend his sessions.

Cartagena - we arranged a private tour with Dora, who tailored it to our specifications. We were joined by six others in our CC group. Dora also spoke very understandable English and was helpful in fending off aggressive vendors. We loved the beauty of La Popa and also visiting a large grocery store!

Like others have noted, it all depends on what you like to do. I knew that heat and humidity tolerance were going to be issues for me, so air-conditioned buses/vans were important. We like to meet locals (as tour guides) but I have to be able to understand their English to get much out of it. As an aside, we never used local money, but always charge cards or American dollars while in port - sounds "ugly American"-ish, but all these areas cater to Americans and are happy to have our currency.
#8
St. Paul MN
3,016 Posts
Joined Dec 2007
Hey Quilter Girl,
Good to see back on the message board.
Our cruise was way beyond my expectation. It was awsome.

For ports of call:
Cartagena: we were part of a private tour with Lee Miles. The tour guide was great and we went to places we had researched before hand. Love the walking tour of the old city and even the tour of the Emeral Museum.

Colon: I organized a private tour with Robtabs. Roberto had one of his guides Zunilda waiting for us. We were 11 people. We went to the Gatun Locks and the town of Portobelo and ended with a lunch at a local cafe in Portobelo. Learned lots of history about Panama and it was a great way to get ready for our full transit the next day. Our guide was excellent. She answered every question we had about Panama and we had lots. She was not reading from a script, but very personable. We even went by her house in one of the neighborhoods.

Costa Rica: We took the ship tour of a Coffee plantation and tour of Sarchi which included lunch. It was an easy tour and it was harvest time for the coffee beans. Learned lots and the guides were again very informative.

Gautemala: We did the DIY ship tour to Anitqua. We hired a local guide for $10.00 per person for a wonderful walking tour. This can be done at the drop off point in Antiqua.

PV: we just got off the ship and took a taxi to the Malecon and walked to the LosMortos beach area. We all have been to PV before so we knew our way around town.

Cabo: did the same, just got off ship and walked aorund and had a nice lunch at a cafe overlooking the marina. Great shrimp cocktail and wonderful chips and salsa with a guitarist playing Neil Young songs. Great way to end our last port of call.
#9
Victoria
2 Posts
Joined Aug 2012
We were just on the Dec 19th Panama Canal - my huband (51) and I (48) took my parents (83 & 80) and here is what we did.

1. Cartagena Columbia - Booked a private city tour ( it was awesome!) to take us to the old city, La Popa and the new city with Henry El mejor guia de Cartagena $30USD per person + taxi - contact info is snowball1966@hotmail.com. Lots of walking - not good if you get tired easily.

We went all over and he speaks fabulous english and is really versed in the history of Cartagena. I also found the recommendation for him on tripadvisor.

2. Colon Panama - took the city and train tour from the ship. It was just ok $159USD per person, wouldnt recommend this and we got a partial refund we were disappointed.

3. Puntarenas - Booked with Odyssey Tours. Went to Tarcoles river, down to Jaco (beach/restaurant/shopping). $70USD per person was pretty good, Tarcoles was not that exciting. This was a motor coach so good to not have to walk in the heat but still get to see neat things.

4. Antigua Guatemala - book privately with Nancy Hoffman's tour company at Nancyinantigua@yahoo.com
She will arrange your private guide ( we had Victoria and he was terrific) for a guided tour of Antigua or whatever you want to do. We paid $80USD per person (transport included), soooo worth it! You can pay via paypal and she provides her skype contact too.

5. Puerto Vallarta - we went on the Yelapas snorkel trip - no parents this time. It was just ok.

6. Cabo San Lucas - was New Years day so we just roamed the city ourselves as we had been there before.
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Celebrity Century 12-19-2012
#10
253 Posts
Joined Jun 2010
Originally posted by Azulann
Hey Quilter Girl,
Good to see back on the message board.
Our cruise was way beyond my expectation. It was awsome.

For ports of call:
Cartagena: we were part of a private tour with Lee Miles. The tour guide was great and we went to places we had researched before hand. Love the walking tour of the old city and even the tour of the Emeral Museum.

Colon: I organized a private tour with Robtabs. Roberto had one of his guides Zunilda waiting for us. We were 11 people. We went to the Gatun Locks and the town of Portobelo and ended with a lunch at a local cafe in Portobelo. Learned lots of history about Panama and it was a great way to get ready for our full transit the next day. Our guide was excellent. She answered every question we had about Panama and we had lots. She was not reading from a script, but very personable. We even went by her house in one of the neighborhoods.

Costa Rica: We took the ship tour of a Coffee plantation and tour of Sarchi which included lunch. It was an easy tour and it was harvest time for the coffee beans. Learned lots and the guides were again very informative.

Gautemala: We did the DIY ship tour to Anitqua. We hired a local guide for $10.00 per person for a wonderful walking tour. This can be done at the drop off point in Antiqua.

PV: we just got off the ship and took a taxi to the Malecon and walked to the LosMortos beach area. We all have been to PV before so we knew our way around town.

Cabo: did the same, just got off ship and walked aorund and had a nice lunch at a cafe overlooking the marina. Great shrimp cocktail and wonderful chips and salsa with a guitarist playing Neil Young songs. Great way to end our last port of call.
I am interested in seeing the construction site when we dock at Colon. Do you have a contact email/phone number for Robtabs Tours? Thanks!
#13
Seattle, WA
10,665 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
Originally posted by Azulann
katmich12,
Here is Roberto's email: Robtads2@hotmail.com
Our roll call had two tours booked with Roberto, both were excellent.

Have a great cruise and post a review when you return.
Hi,
I saw your suggestion for Colon and thought it was a great idea so I emailed Roberto. How long did it take to get a response back? I know I am being impatient as I only emailed this weekend.
thanks
Bill
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Bill

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#14
Orange Park, FL
790 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
[quote=Victoria-gal;36619595]2. Colon Panama - took the city and train tour from the ship. It was just ok $159USD per person, wouldnt recommend this and we got a partial refund we were disappointed.]
We will be on Celebrity Infinity in March and have reserved the train tour through the ship. Why didn't you like it? Why did they give you a partial refund? Now I'm considering whether to cancel this and do something else.
#15
Florida
5,334 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
Obviously I'm not Victoriagal but I can shed a little light on why some do not rate the train high on their list......

1. Really this excursion is something the train aficionado would be more inclined to enjoy.
2. Many expect up close views of the Canal from the RR. While the route of the RR is near the Canal, for the most part the actual Canal is in the distance offering views of Gatun Lake and tropical foliage. If you happen to be on the "wrong" side of the train you will not see much of the Canal at all. There are other tours that will allow you to see more of the Canal or Panama.
3. Often the trip is one way by train and one way by bus, which gives you the opportunity to see some different views of Panama. However, depending on the passenger load and the RR's needs they may do a round trip on the RR instead.
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#16
Orange Park, FL
790 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
Does Robtad (or is it Robtab?) have a website? I tried google and nothing came up for either name except reviews on here and tripadvisor. Do you have to email him to find out what kind of tours he offers?
#17
St. Paul MN
3,016 Posts
Joined Dec 2007
Roberto does not have a web site.
he does take awhile sometimes to answer your emails. but do not be put off by that. Just send him another one.
he will email you his list of tours. He is also is very willing to do a custom tour if you have something special you want to do or see.

At one time we were thinking of doing a zip line and Portobelo but in the end just added Gatum locks to our trip to Portobelo.

Again, I got his name from a destination expert on TA Panama fourm.Roberto also lives in Colon.He does tours for land vacationers all over Panama.

If you decide to use his services you will not be disappointed.
#18
Seattle, WA
10,665 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
Originally posted by Azulann
Roberto does not have a web site.
he does take awhile sometimes to answer your emails. but do not be put off by that. Just send him another one.
he will email you his list of tours. He is also is very willing to do a custom tour if you have something special you want to do or see.

At one time we were thinking of doing a zip line and Portobelo but in the end just added Gatum locks to our trip to Portobelo.

Again, I got his name from a destination expert on TA Panama fourm.Roberto also lives in Colon.He does tours for land vacationers all over Panama.

If you decide to use his services you will not be disappointed.
Thanks, I did hear back and we told him we want to tour Portobello and Gatum Locks with a lunch in Portobello. Should be fun.
Bill
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Bill

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Oasis (birthday cruise)- 01/15 Rhapsody (Hawaii)-09/14 Legend (Panama Canal) - 11/13 Allure 05/13
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#19
St. Paul MN
3,016 Posts
Joined Dec 2007
bill,
Be sure to order the shrimp at lunch. They are huge!!!
Enjoy your tour and please write a review when you return.
#20
Seattle, WA
10,665 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
Originally posted by Azulann
Enjoy your tour and please write a review when you return.
I will with pictures.

Bill
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Bill

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Photo Reviews of cruises: Rhapsody (Caribbean) - 1/17 Radiance (Alaska) - 8/16
Radiance (Hawaii) - 04/16 Jewel (B2B West Coast) - Sept 26 - Oct 10, 2015 Jewel (West Coast) - 05/15

Oasis (birthday cruise)- 01/15 Rhapsody (Hawaii)-09/14 Legend (Panama Canal) - 11/13 Allure 05/13
Jewel 03/13 - 1st Caribbean Radiance 09/12 - Hawaii Splendour 05/12 - E. Mediterranean
Mariner 11/10 - Mexican Riviera Voyager 05/10 - W. Mediterranean (no pictures)
Upcoming-Radiance (Hawaii)-May 5, 2017/Ovation (Malaysia-Thailand)-April 9, 2018/Ovation (China)-April 14, 2018
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