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CarolandNate

Fuerte Amador-Panama City

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Ok then.  I will start here.  Clearly you, living in Panama, have a strong affinity for the country, so I will try not to let any of my preconceived notions slip in.

The cruise that we are taking next December, has six ports of call, plus the ocean to ocean canal transit.  Looking at the various stops, there things that we want to do in them that are what makes them what they are.  Costa Rica-Rainforest; Nicaragua-Volcanoes; Puerto Vallarta-Beach.  Because there are limited number of options within those groupings, we are inclined to want to book them through Princess, well in advance of the trip.  I consider those must see and if we were to miss them, that would be disapointing.  The other three stops, Cartegena, Huatulco and Fuerte Amador appear to have many options within different categories, so if I missed one excursion, there is always something similar.

We have also decided that we are going to do ship's tours, rather than look for private tour companies, regardless of how well they are thought of.  Getting back to the ship is always a concern and I have been told that if one is inclined to spend their entire excursion stressing out as to whether they get back, they should take the ship's tour.  My wife and I WILL stress out, so......

Looking at time in port and times of various excursions, trying to piggy back could get tricky, not to mention more expensive than I desire.  Our inclination in those situations is to find something with some length in the morning and then tool around relatively close to the ship later in the afternoon.  That worked well in Alaska, our only other cruise.

So about Panama.  We are going West to East, so the FA is before the transit.  I am assuming that the transit will have lots of educational stuff, not to mention the lead up on board.  Again that was our experience in Alaska.  Lots of talks in the days leading up and when we got to the fjords and glaciers, they narrated.  One of the categories that I put together had a lot of excursions about the locks and canal itself.  FWIW, I have gone through locks in a kayak.  I know it's not the same as a ship, but the idea is the same and going through the canal is kind of the point of this trip.  I know that these excursions give a different perspective, but spending four or five hours in a museum, well......  I want to avoid redundancy.  Also, as I mentioned, not keen on spending three hours on a bus.

Beyond the locks and canal tours there are city/countryside and nature as I see it.  There appears to be a four hour walking tour of Old Panama City--Panama Viejo/Casco Viejo.  hour to get there two or so at the site and back to the ship for an hour.  We are there for 11 hours, so that leaves plenty of time to toodle around FA, assuming there is any to toodle around to see.  There is a five hour deal that goes to the Ruins.  Reasonable rides to and from; several stops over that five hours.  There is a Gatun Lake Cruise, which looks to be more locks and quite a ride to get to.  Then there is the EmberaVillage, which I discussed.  I saw some nature stuff as well in the four hour range, but I can do nature in other ports, also the rainforest tram, but we hopefully will have done rainforest in Costa Rica by then

What are your thoughts of these?

Then there a whole slew of canal/locks tours, ranging from four to six hours.  If anything, the one that jumps out more to me is the one with Colonial Panama and MirafloresObservationCenter. A little city, a little canal stuff.  Four and a half hours total.  There is that cruise I mentioned earlier and there is the train ride to Colon, not so sure about that.

So what can you tell me?  Am I being ridiculous?  At this point, I am trying to pare down a lengthy list.  In all likelihood, we wil lwait until we are on the ship to book, as I assume we will have choices.  Any help now is great, though.

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The locks are worth seeing from the canal as well as from the Visitors Center at the Miraflores locks. The Museum is VERY interesting. I would do the Colonial Panama and Miraflores Observation Center. The train ride to Colon is very cool too. As long as they have something planned for Colon. That's a pit and you don't want to be on your own. Gatun Lake is a fun experience. You'll see all kinds of animals from Sloths to Monkeys. It's nothing like the Canal. Gatun Lake feeds the old locks. You say you have gone through locks on a Kayak. Depending on what locks, I'm willing to bet it was nothing like the Panama Canal locks. . We have gone through the Suez Canal and found it quite anti climatic compared to the Panama Canal. If you are in physical shape for the Casco Viejo walking tour, it's very interesting. The hour to get there and back is allowing for traffic. Casco Viejo is actually quite close to Amador, if it wasn't for traffic. Also, likely you will tender. I believe the new dock at Amador will be done in 2020. We have gone through the canal 5 times and still see things we haven't seen before. It's all up to you and what you like. 

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Wow.  Thanks for the update.  I have heard that Colon is less than ideal.  I wasn't trying to compare going through a set of locks on a river in Boston to the Panama Canal by any stretch of the imagination.  The whole point of a PC ocean to ocean cruise is to see this wonder.  I see two cruises in North America that would be the gold standards.  We did Alaska and now we're set for the other. 

 

I know that we will get plenty of education on board on the camals and locks, but there is something to be said for a different perspective.  The colonial Panama/Miraflores Locks might just be that ideal combination and Casco Viejo looks very intersting as well.

 

Might be back at you as we get closer to the trip.

 

Thanks again.

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Does anyone know about the Hop on Hop off?  When I look at their website, there is only 1 bus every 90 minutes.  It seems to take the loop that I would like to go to, but am a bit concerned about the frequency.  

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Hi again,

We've returned from our wonderful Panama Canal Cruise on the Coral Princess.

I don't think you've mentioned which ship you are considering??

I must tell you that the excursion I did to the Embera native village was the highlight of my cruise!!

I thought it was an amazing step back in time to visit another world!

It did take all day but it was worth it since I have never experienced anything similar anywhere else!

Feel free to ask any specific questions you may have.

 

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On 12/30/2018 at 9:24 AM, riffatsea said:

Hi again,

We've returned from our wonderful Panama Canal Cruise on the Coral Princess.

I don't think you've mentioned which ship you are considering??

I must tell you that the excursion I did to the Embera native village was the highlight of my cruise!!

I thought it was an amazing step back in time to visit another world!

It did take all day but it was worth it since I have never experienced anything similar anywhere else!

Feel free to ask any specific questions you may have.

 

We are going on the Emerald Princess from LA to Ft Lauderdale in December.

 

Highlight, eh.  That's good to hear.  Been seeing several similar reactions.

 

Yes I have questions.  What was it that you liked so much.  From what I have read about it and what I saw on TV, it looks fascinating.  Can you tell me what basically, it is all about?

 

At first glance, we had been a bit hesitant and maybe you can help me there.    The itinerary has 1:30 out by land transport and 1:30 back.  1:00 each way by motorized canoe and 1:30 on site.  That's about six hours.  The all day part is not an issue.  The two hours back and forth by canoe, sounds really interesting.  The part I am curious about is the three hours getting to an from the port.  That is half the trip in a van, bus or whatever.  What goes on in that part?  Are there interesting things to see or do?  Is there narration?  Is the trip up the same as the trip back?  Not a big fan of sitting in a bus with little to see.  Tell me there is something good there.

 

Is this something I am going to want to book as soon as it is available or is it something that can wait until we are on the ship?

 

Thanks in advance

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Hi,

I was also wary of the amount of time but it turned out to be just fine.

The bus estimate is in case of traffic. I don't think it took that long.

There is narration while on the bus about Panama City and about the tribe you will visit.

Our guide knew the tribe intimately and knew some of their language which he tried to teach us while on the way there. They also speak Spanish and some speak English as well.

The canoe ride took about 40min. It truly felt like the ride on the river was a trip back in time to a pristine natural environment.

At the village we first sat in their communal lodge to hear info about their culture. There was music and dancing. You could take pix and chat with the locals and wander around to see their communal cooking hut and their family huts. There were lovely handmade items to buy from rosewood carvings to baskets to lovely fabrics and jewelry. I brought $100 USA and could have spend more1

They gave us a lunch of fried fish and plantains .

All in all seeing and experiencing a totally different culture was something that you don't usually do on ship excursions!!

BTW there were pit toilets but they had running water to wash and soap and toilet paper so really not bad at all!

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10 hours ago, riffatsea said:

Hi,

I was also wary of the amount of time but it turned out to be just fine.

The bus estimate is in case of traffic. I don't think it took that long.

There is narration while on the bus about Panama City and about the tribe you will visit.

Our guide knew the tribe intimately and knew some of their language which he tried to teach us while on the way there. They also speak Spanish and some speak English as well.

The canoe ride took about 40min. It truly felt like the ride on the river was a trip back in time to a pristine natural environment.

At the village we first sat in their communal lodge to hear info about their culture. There was music and dancing. You could take pix and chat with the locals and wander around to see their communal cooking hut and their family huts. There were lovely handmade items to buy from rosewood carvings to baskets to lovely fabrics and jewelry. I brought $100 USA and could have spend more1

They gave us a lunch of fried fish and plantains .

All in all seeing and experiencing a totally different culture was something that you don't usually do on ship excursions!!

BTW there were pit toilets but they had running water to wash and soap and toilet paper so really not bad at all!

Thank you.  This very helpful.  Good to know that the bus part is not as bad as I imagined.  How is the scenery on the bus ride.  I have no doubt  it is terrific on the canoe part.  I had read that it is good to bring cash.  Nice to know that they take US cash.  Was not looking forward to having to get different currency for each of the different countries. 

 

When you decided to go on this excursion, did you book in advance or did you wait until you were on the ship.  And if you did it in advance, how far in advance. 

 

I assume you went in December.  Which direction?  What other ports did you visit.?

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Panama as a country uses USA dollar bills for currency. They use their own currency ,the Balboa, for change. They do not print their own bills at all.

I didn't know that until I did research for this trip.

 

I knew I wanted to do this excursion from before we booked the trip. We had lots of on board credit which you can now use before you are actually on board to book excursions so I booked when the excursions opened up. It was still available as a trip closer to the date we actually went.

The scenery on the bus ride went from modern city to countryside.

 

Yes, we went in December from LA to Fort Lauderdale.

We only did one other ship's excursion in Nicaragua to a hacienda near Lake Nicaragua and to a small town nearby. The hacienda was lovely and the folk dance show there was very nice too.

 

In Costa Rica we did a private excursion with one couple from our Roll Call. We used Gio Tours.

They will customize anything you want to see/do. They were very responsive. In fact our guide for that tour was Adonys Cruz who was marvelous! We didn't pay until we were actually on the tour and used USA $$s also there for that. You may be able to reach Adonys directly on FB. I may have his e mail somewhere too.

 

Other than that we did our own thing with taxi drivers at the ports. I will say that Cartagena drivers were VERY aggressive and if I went there on another cruise I'd either book a tour ahead of time or do a ship excursion or be prepared to pay $20 USA for going anywhere in the city.(in each direction)

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, riffatsea said:

Panama as a country uses USA dollar bills for currency. They use their own currency ,the Balboa, for change. They do not print their own bills at all.

I didn't know that until I did research for this trip.

 

I knew I wanted to do this excursion from before we booked the trip. We had lots of on board credit which you can now use before you are actually on board to book excursions so I booked when the excursions opened up. It was still available as a trip closer to the date we actually went.

The scenery on the bus ride went from modern city to countryside.

 

Yes, we went in December from LA to Fort Lauderdale.

We only did one other ship's excursion in Nicaragua to a hacienda near Lake Nicaragua and to a small town nearby. The hacienda was lovely and the folk dance show there was very nice too.

 

In Costa Rica we did a private excursion with one couple from our Roll Call. We used Gio Tours.

They will customize anything you want to see/do. They were very responsive. In fact our guide for that tour was Adonys Cruz who was marvelous! We didn't pay until we were actually on the tour and used USA $$s also there for that. You may be able to reach Adonys directly on FB. I may have his e mail somewhere too.

 

Other than that we did our own thing with taxi drivers at the ports. I will say that Cartagena drivers were VERY aggressive and if I went there on another cruise I'd either book a tour ahead of time or do a ship excursion or be prepared to pay $20 USA for going anywhere in the city.(in each direction)

 

 

 

This is great info.  Was this your first PC cruise.  If so, you are braver than we are, using privates.  I had heard some people say, that if you think you will stress out worrying about getting back, then go with ship's tours.  Truth be told, we would stress out, no matter how much we tried to convince ourselves not to.

 

Our master plan is to book the must sees ( as we see them), in advance, like as soon as they become available.  Volcanoes in Nicaragua, Rainforest in Costa Rica, Beach excursion in Puerto Vallarta.  These are things that if we did not do the ONE we had in mind, we would be disappointed.  I realize they may be pricier through the ship, but .....  In light of your endorsement of Embera Indians in Panama, we are considering early booking on that.  I have heard that it is popular and if it is chancy in waiting, then we'll just do it ahead of time. 

 

I figure that Cartegena and Huatulco are a little more must see when it comes to particulars.  Cartagena as I see it is really about the city and there are about 10-12 tours through the ship.  I am guessing that we can wait until we get on board for one of those.  Huatulco looks like city/countryside or bay cruises and all are about 4 hours of the 9 we are there.  Not likely going to piggy back, but if the city is close to the dock (walking distance), that is something we can do on our own.  When we were in Alaska, we got back from excursions and spent a little time in the cities, and then walked back.

 

Hooking up with Roll call people is also an option.  A little early at this point to put ourselves out there, though. 

 

I have seen some people say that they stay on the ship on excursion days.  We figure that since we have never been there and will not likely be back, that seeing these places is something we would regret missing.  When we did Alaska, we took a plane out to the end of the park and the pilot broke through the clouds and we were ten miles from Denali looking right at it.  On the way back to airport in Anchorage, we stayed at a place that as running helicopters to glaciers.  We walked on one for a half hour.  These are things we will never do again, so.....  Taking the same tack with PC excursions.

 

I will probably be back at you at some point, as I discover more questions to ask.

 

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Lots of people use private tours for these ports. There are tons of posts about them on the Costa Rica and Cartagena, Columbia forums here.

They are very well reviewed!

I am an independent land traveler who is used to making my own arrangements.

Going off on our own at cruise ports is not new to us no matter which port it is.

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2 hours ago, riffatsea said:

Lots of people use private tours for these ports. There are tons of posts about them on the Costa Rica and Cartagena, Columbia forums here.

They are very well reviewed!

I am an independent land traveler who is used to making my own arrangements.

Going off on our own at cruise ports is not new to us no matter which port it is.

Thanks again.  I will be in touch again in time.

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We will be on the Coral Princess 2/15, from SFO to FLL. This is our 2nd canal cruise. The last time in Panama City we used the hop on hop off bus. This time we are interested in going to the Bio museum, has anyone been there? I figure we could get a taxi from  Amador?

 

Thanks, Denise

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7 minutes ago, daydreamer16 said:

We will be on the Coral Princess 2/15, from SFO to FLL. This is our 2nd canal cruise. The last time in Panama City we used the hop on hop off bus. This time we are interested in going to the Bio museum, has anyone been there? I figure we could get a taxi from  Amador?

 

Thanks, Denise

It should be easy to get a taxi, but make sure you negotiate the price in advance. It really shouldn't be more than 5.00, but........ 

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3 minutes ago, daydreamer16 said:

That's good to know, my husband is fluent in Spanish so he'll have to do the negotiating.:classic_cool:

Perfect. Let him do the talking. Regardless of what the driver asks for, tell your husband to start at 3.00. There are charts and The Bio Museum is right on Amador Causeway, so there will be minimal traffic. 5.00 maximum. Good luck. 

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On 10/25/2018 at 10:13 AM, CarolandNate said:

I will be interested to hear about the Embera Indian Tour when you go.  You are not the first to recommend it.

The Embera visit was the high point of the trip.   Warmth of the whole community, a good experie nce in every way.  

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8 minutes ago, Relaxedfun said:

The Embera visit was the high point of the trip.   Warmth of the whole community, a good experie nce in every way.  

Thanks

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Just want to make a comment on Emberas. Years ago we spent a week in Panama and visited Embera, there were just the two of us along with two Federales that were on leave. It was the highlight of our week, I am guessing it has changed over the years but would still be good.

 

As for Masaya in Niicaragua, we also spent two weeks in Costa Rica and spent some time up in Nicaragua at Granada and Masaya, they too were very worth the trip.

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We just got back from a great Panama Canal Cruise.   We visited the Emberas and enjoyed it as well.  From talking to others that went into Panama city, I think we made the right choice.    The only thing to keep in mind is that you have to walk down a relatively uneven dirt/gravel path to get to the canoe.  Some of the older people who were unsteady on their feet had a challenge.  One slipped on the gravel and had a minor injury.

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3 hours ago, Ofmyheart said:

Just want to make a comment on Emberas. Years ago we spent a week in Panama and visited Embera, there were just the two of us along with two Federales that were on leave. It was the highlight of our week, I am guessing it has changed over the years but would still be good.

 

As for Masaya in Niicaragua, we also spent two weeks in Costa Rica and spent some time up in Nicaragua at Granada and Masaya, they too were very worth the trip.

Sounds good.  That's what I am hearing, especially about Emberas.  Hadn't been seeing too much good or bad about Nicaragua.  There were three volcano tours, but only one that seemed to spend a decent amount of time at the volcano itself.  Sounds like we made the right choice.  Thanks

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3 hours ago, tert333 said:

We just got back from a great Panama Canal Cruise.   We visited the Emberas and enjoyed it as well.  From talking to others that went into Panama city, I think we made the right choice.    The only thing to keep in mind is that you have to walk down a relatively uneven dirt/gravel path to get to the canoe.  Some of the older people who were unsteady on their feet had a challenge.  One slipped on the gravel and had a minor injury.

Oh, oh.  We "older", I think.  But everything I hear about this is good.  Interesting what you say about Panama City.  While the city and the locks tours may be educational and a chance to see the canal from a different perspective, we really want to do something different.  I figure we will get a lot of educational stuff as we go through, not to mention on the ship the days before the transit.  What I don't want is to do a city/locks tour the day before and then go through and be told basically the same things.  The Embera tour really looks different than your typical tour and we also got to see a short piece on TV with one of the many streaming travel channels.  So thanks

 

 

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On 10/25/2018 at 8:19 AM, CarolandNate said:

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.

After countless cruises and excursions, I can highly recommend the Embera excursion.  Very interesting and scenic.  They also sell crafts made in their village using indigenous materials, great quality and value.

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On 1/13/2019 at 4:11 PM, travelerchris said:

Perfect. Let him do the talking. Regardless of what the driver asks for, tell your husband to start at 3.00. There are charts and The Bio Museum is right on Amador Causeway, so there will be minimal traffic. 5.00 maximum. Good luck. 

We would like to know if it is possible to take a cab from Amador dock to Panama City to get the hop on hop off bus tour? An alternative would be a private tour to Panama City from Amador.  Any suggestions are much appreciated.

 

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