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CarolandNate

Fuerte Amador-Panama City

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My wife and I are planning a Panama Canal trip in 2019.  At this time we are researching potential excursions in different ports.  I would like to get some feedback from people who have been to various ports about their experiences.  

My question is about Fuerte Amador.  We are traveling west to east, so the port of call will be after the transit.  My take from what I see is that the general categories of excursions are canal/locks, nature and city/countryside.  There appear to a lot of options in each category and while they may be different within a category, there are lots of similarities.   Unlike Costa Rica (rainforests) or Nicaragua (volcanoes), there is not, in my mind, a "must see".  

While I realize that it could be less expensive to book excursions exclusive of the ship, we have decided that we are going to do so through the ship.  We are not seasoned cruisers.  Our trip to Alaska a year ago was our first and only.  We felt comfortable booking outside there.  We plan to book certain ports as soon as they become available.

Fuerte Amador is one where we feel confident that we can get something by waiting.  There appear to be enough choices.  My assumption is that since this is a Panama Canal cruise that there will be  a lot of education about the canals and the locks on the ship.  I assume that will continue as we go through the locks.  Since we will be in Fuerte Amador after the transit, I would think that for the sake of something different, it might be better to do something in the other categories.

What, in the opinion of those who have been there are the better of the nature and/or city/countryside tours.  Am I correct in my assumption of a bit of redundancy by going to see more about the locks and canal building?  I have made  alist, but I want to narrow it down at some point.  Thanks for any help.

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"My question is about Fuerte Amador.  We are traveling west to east, so the port of call will be after the transit."

 

I am confused... west to east is Pacific to Atlantic, is your ship calling at Ft. Amador?  If that is the case, then it would call at Ft. Amador prior to the transit.  What cruise line are you using?  Some ships routinely call at Colon (docked) for the stop in Panama while others use Ft. Amador (tendered).

 

To some of your other questions... While I think seeing the locks from shore provides you with another perspective, many people will probably be satisfied with seeing the locks on their transit.  After all it really is the best seat in the house:classic_biggrin:!  Taking in more Canal centered excursions is really dependent on your interest in the Canal.

 

One excursion that is probably a little more unique is the one that visits the Embera Indians.  This tour will give you a good look at their culture along with some of the undeveloped areas of the country, all while not really being that far from civilization.  All the cruise lines have a name for the next excursion that may be of interest, that is the tour that highlights the different Panama Cities.  First is the original Panama City, Panama Viejo founded in 1519 and then destroyed by Henry Morgan in 1671.  The city was reestablished in the area now called Casco Antiguo (also called Casco Viejo) which retains much of its history and charm with lots of preservation.  In between those two is present day Panama City.

 

Beyond that, there are some low key excursions like the train, the aerial tram, monkey island etc.  All of which can be interesting depending on what you are looking for.

Edited by BillB48

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Yes I realized after I posted that I wrote the order wrong. It is before the transit.  When I noticed it, I figured that someone would catch it.  That it is before the transit, is why I asked.  I would rather not pay for an excursion and then find out the next day that almost everything I heard, I was going to hear on the ship.  BTW, Emerald Princess in December 2019.

 

That said your answer was exactly was I was looking for. The difference in perspective is, of course, something to consider.  And I think many of the lock/canal tours would complement the transit, itself.  But that is a choice my wife and I need to make given a lot of factors.  You seem to confirm, that there MIGHT be some redundancy.

 

Actually, the Embera Indians excursion is one that caught my eye.  Given what we will be doing at other ports of call, there appears to be nothing like that any others.  Another factor is that at 6 1/2 hours. it will take up enough of the 9 hours on land, so that we won't feel the need to do another excursion.  That this is a tender port is also a factor.  Then there is the cost, $99 per.  Looking to get the most "bang for our buck".  The others you mentioned are a little pricier and doubling up other excursions would make it more like $150 per.  I am good with something like that when it comes to the volcanoes or rainforest, but not on every stop.  I mentioned must see and while this sounds very interesting and worthwhile, I would not categorize it like that.  I don't think we would say after the trip, OMG we did not get to see the Embera Indians.  I would feel that way if we missed out on volcanoes or rainforests.  Thus we will book as soon as they let us.

 

So again, this is really helpful.  I am guessing (hoping) that this not necessarily one that needs to be booked months in advance, but one that can be booked on the ship.  This also has something to do with insurance.  If I book something non refundable before we leave home, I pay the premium.  If I start the trip, I don't have to.  We are staying in Cali for almost a week before we cruise, so that is time where I can decide where I book and save the premium. 

 

Thank you, I will put this near the top of my list.

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Hi,

Everyone travels differently . We are on the same cruise this December. I don't understand your comment about insurance  and booking the excursions? IF you book the excursions they are not non refundable. You can always change your mind and get your money back. IF you have travel insurance and you don't go on the cruise for some reason that is accepted by the insurance company you will get your money back also.

I agree that you don't have to book everything before you travel unless there is something you feel you "must" do. For me the Embera visit is something that interests me more than getting a different view of the locks.  I don't have that sort of feeling about seeing a volcano. Sooo that just shows how everyone is different about the things that interest them when they travel.

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Yes, exactly.  The insurance thing is through Travel Guard.  Door to door.  They have a requirement that if anything booked before the trip is non refundable before the trip begins, one must pay the premium for that to meet pre existing conditions.  I have a pre existing condition, which CAN affect the trip, not likely, but possible.  Not willing to take the chance, so I play the game.  Unlike the Princess insurance that covers only Princess things, this covers everything from the monment we leave the house.  We are also spending time in Cali before the trip.  It is actually less expensive than the Princess plan and covers more.  Trust me on that, I called Travel Guard several times before we went to Alaska and asked the question differently each time and basically got the same answer.  Doesn't appear entirely logical, but.......

 

The Embera Indians look interesting and different not only with regard to this port but as compared to other ports.  The more I hear about it, the more I am intrigued.  Can you tell me if this is one that I could wait on.  I found a rainforest tour we said, we really want to do this one.  For that I will book as early as possible.  Just don't want to do it for every port.  Willing to take some chances.

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It has been my experience that the cruise lines will hold back a number of excursions to be sold on board.  So if by chance you don't take get a reservation for a particular excursion on line beforehand, there will be an opportunity to purchase it on the ship.  For a popular excursion (like the Embera one) I would be book that one ASAP after boarding the ship.

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So it's really popular !  Good to know.  But not so much that I would need to do it three months in advance.  I noticed that no excursions are open until within 120 days.  There is a rainforest in CR where I would be disappointed if we missed out on that one.  Same goes for a particular beach day at Puerto Vallarta.  There are some choices for volcanoes in San Juan del Sur and I am still gathering info.  We want volcano where we can actually visit the volcano.  Just not sure which one serves that best.  But that is another thread for another time.  Got plenty of time to figure that out.  Some things, we can book well in advance, but I would like to leave some for on the ship or even online, once we have left home (insurance purposes).

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Hi again,

I just went into my booking for this December.

It appears that all of the offered excursions still have plenty of room left to pick them.

My point was that excursions ARE refundable before you board the ship.

Not sure why you think they are not?

Of course you can do as you think best.

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My thinking that an excursion booked through Princess would be added to to my total Princess bill, of which final payment is due 89 days before the cruise.  Are you saying that booking an excursion, even through Princess is separate and cancellable right up until boarding?  When I did Alaska, there were things we paid for in advance (non-Princess).  Deposits were not refundable at a certain point.  Rather than risk losing pre-existing conditions, I chose to just cover them.  

Anything paid for after we left the house did not have to be covered.  Interesting to see that here we are almost in November and that excursions just a month or so away, still have openings.  That gives me confidence to wait on some ports that are a little less "must see" types.  With six ports of call, I figure we don't need to do everything in advance.  We need to pick our spots. 

 

I am probably overthinking this, but that is what I do.  Too much time on my hands at this point.  The problem is if you ask them, they will say, no you need to book ASAP.  Got that kind of response for Alaska and when we went to Florida in the spring.  People like yourself are a lot more reliable, because you have been there and done that.

Edited by CarolandNate
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From the Princess web site:

Cancellation of Pre-Paid Shore Excursions:

If you have pre-paid a shore excursion and wish to cancel, the following shall also apply:

If a pre-paid shore excursion is cancelled five (5) days or more prior to sailing a refund of the pre-paid amount will be made in one of the following ways:

  1. If there is a shore excursion balance for the guest named on the reservation being cancelled then the pre-paid amount shall be applied to this balance.

    Or,
     
  2. If there is no shore excursion balance for the guest named on the reservation being cancelled then the pre-paid amount will be refunded to the credit card used to pre-pay the shore excursion. Refunds in this instance will be made within 24 hours of cancellation. If the guest for whom the pre-paid excursion is being cancelled makes another shore excursion reservation within 24 hours of cancellation, the refund will be applied to the newly made reservation.

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I did not know that.  So it not treated alongside the final payment for the cruise itself.  i know EZ Air has its own cancel by dates.  This is good to know.  Thank you very much. This is so much easier than checking with Princess or Costco. With the trip more than a year away, I will be out there asking questions for a while. I probably need to get a life.

 

 

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We booked our Panama Canal cruise waaaay back in September or 2017!! Time flies!! Have fun doing the research!! Will certainly come back to write reviews of port excursions after our cruise in December.

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You must be really excited that after all that time, you are on the cusp of going.  We booked our December 2019 cruise in May of 2018, so we will have had nearly a year and a half to obsess.  And I am one who likes to make lists and lists of my lists.  I do like doing research, though.  It's fun.  And when there are people like yourself that are so willing to share, I really appreciate that.

 

Our only cruise was to Alaska and we began by thinking of doing a cruise tour, all through Princess.  I learned that we could have a lot more flexibility doing the land portion on our own (also saved a boatload of money).   Also did our excursions independently, but that was Alaska.  We rented a car, drove where we wanted, when we wanted and stayed a places that we picked out.  We ended up getting leads from the B&B where we stayed.  they even set us up for a plane ride to the end of the park, that included going through the clouds and seeing Denali head on from maybe ten miles, if that.  never would have thought of that on our own.  Most of the people we met went the all Princess route and were surprised when we told them of what we were doing. 

 

Not going to be as adventurous on the Panama Canal trip, though.  That is why this cruise critic thing is invaluable.

 

Good luck and have fun.  Will be looking for your travels in a couple of months.

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We are actually planning to do Puerto Vallarta on our own as we've been there many times.

We are also doing Cartagena, Colombia on our own.

I am comfy in conversational Spanish and so we can manage taxis and stores and restaurants etc on our own. Happy planning!!

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I was at Fuerte Amador just 2 weeks ago. Celebrity cancelled their stop in Costa Rica because of labor unrest and substituted this port just a day before we got there. You do have to tender and it takes about 15 minutes to get to the dock from the ship. There is not much there. One nice, large gift shop with a variety of items and about 3 places to eat. Since we had no prior knowledge of this port we just winged it. Got a taxi and went to the old town.  It was quite nice with good shopping and restored buildings and church's. We just wanted a ride over but our driver became our guide for a little over 2 hours. It was $40. I also want to comment on the Embera indians. We did this tour from. I Colon. It was the highlight of the trip for most of our large group. Our itinerary allowed for a stop at the Agua Clara super max locks which was very modern and interesting. From Fuerte Amador that might not be possible. We went in a dugout canoe to the village along the Changres River. There was an outboard motor and the ride was very smooth. I thought of this as my national geographic moment. The Indians were very kind. The kids were cute. And they fixed a delicious meal of Tilapia fish, plantains and fresh fruit. They had handicrafts for sale, some very pretty and inexpensive. They danced for us and then with us. I will recommend Your Panama Tours with Marie Willis. An outstanding guide based in Panama City. Her father worked on the canal as she was growing up. Her English is perfect because she lived in the US a number of years. I am sure you will enjoy the trip. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thank you  I am hearing a lot of good things about this particular excursion, both through the ship and on one's own.  Seems that this one generally has availability, certainly if booked in advance. It looks like, it is an hour and a half at the village and two and a half each way.  The travel to and from being split between, I assume a bus and the dugout canoe.  Am I correct? 

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Since we did the tour from Colon on the Atlantic side I think our drive was a little shorter. Maybe an hour and half each way. Hard to tell because our driver stopped a couple of times because he spotted a sloth in a tree and later a family of howler monkeys. Each time everyone got out to take pictures and it took a while to get everyone loaded back up. The canoe ride is about 15 minutes. The village we visited on the private tour is next to the village the cruise lines visit so I imagine the canoe ride will be about the same for you. And we did spend a couple of hours at the village. 

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Your insight has been invaluable.  That you are going this December is particularly helpful to us, since we are going a year from now and I am guessing there is some consistency seasonally.  I am anxiously awaiting to hear about your experiences over the next couple of months.  We are in the list making stage with general categories.  I would like to hear about particular places within those categories. 

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On 10/25/2018 at 1:07 AM, CarolandNate said:

My wife and I are planning a Panama Canal trip in 2019.  At this time we are researching potential excursions in different ports.  I would like to get some feedback from people who have been to various ports about their experiences.  

My question is about Fuerte Amador.  We are traveling west to east, so the port of call will be after the transit.  My take from what I see is that the general categories of excursions are canal/locks, nature and city/countryside.  There appear to a lot of options in each category and while they may be different within a category, there are lots of similarities.   Unlike Costa Rica (rainforests) or Nicaragua (volcanoes), there is not, in my mind, a "must see".  

 

While I realize that it could be less expensive to book excursions exclusive of the ship, we have decided that we are going to do so through the ship.  We are not seasoned cruisers.  Our trip to Alaska a year ago was our first and only.  We felt comfortable booking outside there.  We plan to book certain ports as soon as they become available.

Fuerte Amador is one where we feel confident that we can get something by waiting.  There appear to be enough choices.  My assumption is that since this is a Panama Canal cruise that there will be  a lot of education about the canals and the locks on the ship.  I assume that will continue as we go through the locks.  Since we will be in Fuerte Amador after the transit, I would think that for the sake of something different, it might be better to do something in the other categories.

What, in the opinion of those who have been there are the better of the nature and/or city/countryside tours.  Am I correct in my assumption of a bit of redundancy by going to see more about the locks and canal building?  I have made  alist, but I want to narrow it down at some point.  Thanks for any help.

What do you like to do? You can visit the Gamboa Rainforest and take the tram and see monkeys and sloths, or you can go into Panama City, but be aware traffic is horrendous. Casco Viejo is very interesting and it's located before you get into the city proper. Actually, going through the locks on a ship is totally different than going to the Miraflores Visitors Center. So that's an option. You'll see all the old military housing, which are now universities and schools. Shopping in the city is an option. It depends on what you like to do. The Aqua Bus leaves from Amador, which is a normal sized bus and it tours the city and occasionally drives into the water, like a boat.  But, whatever you do, if you go with an independent guide, allow for traffic. Your Travel Agent should be able to find tours through independent tour companies. 

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I plan to cruise the Panama Canal from west to east next month.  I have booked the Panama Canal Railway & New Locks excursion from Fuerte Amador.  I very much enjoy train travel and am looking forward to this excursion.  I believe the train will take us to Colon and we will return by bus.

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2 hours ago, Floridapenny said:

I plan to cruise the Panama Canal from west to east next month.  I have booked the Panama Canal Railway & New Locks excursion from Fuerte Amador.  I very much enjoy train travel and am looking forward to this excursion.  I believe the train will take us to Colon and we will return by bus.

 

Have seen this tour operate in a number of ways depending on how many people are booked and where they need to place equipment.  It can be bus over, train back or train over bus back, even train round trip... it's all good.  A tip, if you go train over from the Pacific side to Colon... the best views of the Canal will be on the left side of the train traveling in that direction.

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The train operates twice a day. 7am (roughly) from Panama City to Colon, and 5pm (roughly) coming back. So if you go to Colon by train it'll be early. That's why you return by bus.You don't want to hang out in Colon any longer than you need. High crime area. 

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Normally when the ships offer these excursions they are trains that operate in addition to the regular commuter service the PCR offers.

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