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JayDeeJay

Panama Canal . . . again

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Have you cruised the Panama Canal itinerary?  We enjoyed the whole cruise itinerary so much we’re doing it again - it’s a real treat.  What were your impressions?  We’ve finally learned how to enjoy repeat port calls as well as the ship being our excellent all-inclusive.  Happy campers . . . I mean cruisers😊

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We did the canal partial transit last year twice. It was difficult to sit and watch the whole thing for that many hours at a time. So, we watched the entrance on the first trip, and the exit on the second trip. It was interesting from way up top, but I went to the casino on the exit of the first trip and it was just crazy looking on a lower level to see how close and big the walls were. Head down to the promenade while in the locks and try not to reach out and touch the walls like a little kid! 😄 

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We did the Panama Canal on HAL with calls at Aruba, Curacao, The Canal, and Puerto Limon. We'd love to do it again.  Our day in the Canal was one of our best cruise days ever (well, maybe tying with Alaska😊 )

Normally the first time at a Caribbean port we take a tour of the island so we get all the history and see the tourist/historical highlights.  When we go back we have an idea of where we'd like to spend more time and grab a cab to go there. 

Recently, We're also finding, rather than book excursions, it's about the same price to book a car and driver for the day or half a day depending on the length of the stopover.  We research and book this a few months before the cruise.  We do our research and have them take us to the places we want to see and normally have them take us to an authentic local place for lunch and a local beer.

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We are doing the Panama Canal on the Miracle in Feb. We are very excited. All new to us ports so I am going bonkers trying to research excursions!

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We did the partial transit also.   A high light for us other that the obvious amazing technology was the train ride to the Pacific side and back.  Learned lots in a splendid old train car with a wonderful guide.

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We just did the 15 day full transit from a Miami to L.A. in April with our 9 and 11 yearnold daughters. It was a wonderful trip with perfect weather. We did Colombia , Costa Rica, Guatemala,  Cabo, Mazatlan, and Acapulco . It’s something that all devout cruisers should experience. The  Canal and ports on the Pacific side were more unique and a world destination, not like going to Cozumel and Nassau and such. We had some amazing private tours in Cartagena and Costa Rica. We were blessed to have our kids experience it with us and would do it again down the road even though it cost a pretty penny.

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Our first Panama Canal cruise is booked for 2021.  Looking forward to reading what everyone enjoyed on their journeys.

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We did the Canal land based in January and went on a Canal excursion on a smaller boat, maybe 100 people. Seeing the Canal at water level was amazing. Some people we were with have cruised it and although they loved it, they said the perspective from water level was a completely different experience. The guides were very knowledgeable and knew everything about the Canal, like 20,000 full time employees. Cruise ships pay approximately $500,000 per passing. 

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To the OP, doing the Canal more than once is almost like eating one peanut or one potato chip... it just leads to more!  Many cruises lend themselves well to repeat cruises and the Canal certainly falls into that category😀.

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We did the canal about 11 years ago and from the minute it ended we said to each other we must do it again. 12 years later we are finally going back on a 17 day cruise in March of 2020. Cannot wait to see one of the worlds wonders again. 

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On 5/24/2019 at 4:53 PM, GLCM GUY said:

We did the partial transit also.   A high light for us other that the obvious amazing technology was the train ride to the Pacific side and back.  Learned lots in a splendid old train car with a wonderful guide.

Tell me more about the train. 😊

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On 5/23/2019 at 8:28 PM, JayDeeJay said:

Have you cruised the Panama Canal itinerary?  We enjoyed the whole cruise itinerary so much we’re doing it again - it’s a real treat.  What were your impressions?  We’ve finally learned how to enjoy repeat port calls as well as the ship being our excellent all-inclusive.  Happy campers . . . I mean cruisers😊

After your 2nd transit, don't be surprised to be interested in booking another transit.

 

I have well over 20 full transits and a partial from the Pacific. I am always out on deck first - before Cristobal breakwater of buoyed channel before Bridge of Americas. I am generally out all day enjoying the scenery and marveling at the operation of the locks.

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2 hours ago, pianoplayerla said:

Tell me more about the train. 😊

 

What would you like to know about the train?  The PRR was the first transcontinental railroad and the fastest.  Maybe I had better say the quickest, making the trip across the continent in under an hour and a half😉.  It is a great trip for the railroad buff, a lot of history on those rails going all the way back to the California Gold Rush.  Passenger accommodations are great with some restored former Amtrak coaches that have an outdoor viewing platform.  The domed car dates back from the 1930s when it was a lounge car used by the Southern Pacific Railroad.

 

The only down side to the trip is if you are expecting to see a lot of the Canal, most of what you will see of the Canal is in the distance.  However, there are two portions of the trip where the train runs fairly close to the Canal for a few miles.

 

Also, sometimes the train excursion is round trip and other times it is one way on the train and one way by bus.

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Pianoplayerla

   The train was pulled by a diesel engine and there were two kinds of cars.  There were "dome cars" and elegant old "parlor cars."  We were in the latter.  I talked with some who were in the dome cars and they were very happy with them.  The car we were in was paneled in lush, dark wood with green felt seats. Each car had a restroom.  It has been a number of years so I don't remember how many people were in our car but maybe 20.

   The schedule for us was to ride the train one way and take a motor coach the other.  Since we were the only ship that day we got the train round trip which we thought was an extra bonus.

   Each car had a guide/moderator.  Ours was a young lady who kept us updated on what we were seeing and the history of the area.  When we got to the Pacific side we boarded motor coaches along with our guide for a tour that included a trip to the locks and a great look at the very modern sky line of Panama City.

  On the return trip were provided a very nice box lunch.  There were soft drinks and water but no alcohol was served.

  After all these years the price escapes me but it was probably in the $150.00 pp range and for us was worth every penny.  We along with everyone else tipped our guide at the end who we all thought did a superior job for us!

  Two final comments.  First , I am an unapologetic train geek and have ridden trains all over the world so my comments may be a tad enthusiastic.  Second, one of the places we went by was the Panama Federal Prison and for what it's worth I don't want to go to prison in Panama!!!!

  If you have any specific questions please ask and I will do my best to answer.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

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Thank you both for your reply. We are planning our trip for January 2020, so trying to get ideas for things to do. 

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We have booked a 15 day full transit San Diego to Fort Lauderdale November 2020. This is our first time so will need to research excursions. This is also first time in an inside so will need to be creative. The cost difference was huge so just happy we will experience it. 

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On 5/28/2019 at 6:37 AM, GLCM GUY said:

Pianoplayerla

   The train was pulled by a diesel engine and there were two kinds of cars.  There were "dome cars" and elegant old "parlor cars."  We were in the latter.  I talked with some who were in the dome cars and they were very happy with them.  The car we were in was paneled in lush, dark wood with green felt seats. Each car had a restroom.  It has been a number of years so I don't remember how many people were in our car but maybe 20.

   The schedule for us was to ride the train one way and take a motor coach the other.  Since we were the only ship that day we got the train round trip which we thought was an extra bonus.

   Each car had a guide/moderator.  Ours was a young lady who kept us updated on what we were seeing and the history of the area.  When we got to the Pacific side we boarded motor coaches along with our guide for a tour that included a trip to the locks and a great look at the very modern sky line of Panama City.

  On the return trip were provided a very nice box lunch.  There were soft drinks and water but no alcohol was served.

  After all these years the price escapes me but it was probably in the $150.00 pp range and for us was worth every penny.  We along with everyone else tipped our guide at the end who we all thought did a superior job for us!

  Two final comments.  First , I am an unapologetic train geek and have ridden trains all over the world so my comments may be a tad enthusiastic.  Second, one of the places we went by was the Panama Federal Prison and for what it's worth I don't want to go to prison in Panama!!!!

  If you have any specific questions please ask and I will do my best to answer.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Thank you as well!  This sounds fun!  We are booked on a Miami to Los Angeles cruise in Dec 2020, so I will save all this information!

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This is our first Panama Canal cruise full transit on Princess from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale. It’s on November 17th for 15 days. We have booked the safari excursion in Puntarenas, hop on off bus in Cartagena. Trying to figure out what to do in Fuerte Amador. I’m leaning towards the Embera Village excursion, but not sure.

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On 5/24/2019 at 5:03 PM, tallnthensome said:

We just did the 15 day full transit from a Miami to L.A. in April with our 9 and 11 yearnold daughters. It was a wonderful trip with perfect weather. We did Colombia , Costa Rica, Guatemala,  Cabo, Mazatlan, and Acapulco . It’s something that all devout cruisers should experience. The  Canal and ports on the Pacific side were more unique and a world destination, not like going to Cozumel and Nassau and such. We had some amazing private tours in Cartagena and Costa Rica. We were blessed to have our kids experience it with us and would do it again down the road even though it cost a pretty penny.

 

You mentioned you did private tours in Cartagena and Costa Rica. What tour companies did you use? What did you do in Guatamala? I have a Panama Canal cruise booked for later this year and am anxiously trying to figure out what to do.

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17 minutes ago, thekidsandi said:

 

You mentioned you did private tours in Cartagena and Costa Rica. What tour companies did you use? What did you do in Guatamala? I have a Panama Canal cruise booked for later this year and am anxiously trying to figure out what to do.

We used Dora Tours in Cartagena, absolutely wonderful and reliable. Check out her reviews on Trip Advisor. We used GioTours in Costa Rica and did the 8 in 1 tour they offer. Again, great all the way around, Check out their website. We did the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatamala thru NCL. It was an amazing hike but unless you are in very good shape and can hike up 4.3 miles at 60 degrees to the volcano I would suggest against it. If you can do it, it's an amazing spectacle and like being on another planet when you reach the base of the volcano. It was the most physically challenging thing we have ever done in our life but worth it if you make it. It's 4.3 miles down and still hard on the knees and ankles getting down. 

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19 hours ago, tallnthensome said:

We used Dora Tours in Cartagena, absolutely wonderful and reliable. Check out her reviews on Trip Advisor. We used GioTours in Costa Rica and did the 8 in 1 tour they offer. Again, great all the way around, Check out their website. We did the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatamala thru NCL. It was an amazing hike but unless you are in very good shape and can hike up 4.3 miles at 60 degrees to the volcano I would suggest against it. If you can do it, it's an amazing spectacle and like being on another planet when you reach the base of the volcano. It was the most physically challenging thing we have ever done in our life but worth it if you make it. It's 4.3 miles down and still hard on the knees and ankles getting down. 

Thank you so much for this information. I have booked Dora Tours and GioTours, per your recommendation. I am still unsure on Guatemala. The volcano hike sounds great, but might be a little too much for me. We also go to Santa Marta, Colombia, and I'm not sure what to do there.

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3 hours ago, thekidsandi said:

Thank you so much for this information. I have booked Dora Tours and GioTours, per your recommendation. I am still unsure on Guatemala. The volcano hike sounds great, but might be a little too much for me. We also go to Santa Marta, Colombia, and I'm not sure what to do there.

 

We had wonderful tours with Dora and Gio ("8 in 1") a couple of years ago; I think you'll have a great time! 

 

If you decide the volcano in Guatemala is too much, I would highly recommend taking the ship's "Antigua on Your Own" tour.  It's RT transportation to Antigua (which is a good idea to do through the ship, since's a long way on a two-road); there's a guide on the bus who will talk to you on the way there, and give you a street map.  (You can also get maps on line.) The central area of Antigua is very compact and walkable on your own.  (You should have about 4 hours there.)  Plenty of info on line about what to see in Antigua.

 

In January, we'll be taking our second Canal cruise (another full transit).  Santa Marta is one of our ports (it wasn't on our first cruise), and I too am unsure about what to do there, even after researching this port.

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2 hours ago, Turtles06 said:

 

We had wonderful tours with Dora and Gio ("8 in 1") a couple of years ago; I think you'll have a great time! 

 

If you decide the volcano in Guatemala is too much, I would highly recommend taking the ship's "Antigua on Your Own" tour.  It's RT transportation to Antigua (which is a good idea to do through the ship, since's a long way on a two-road); there's a guide on the bus who will talk to you on the way there, and give you a street map.  (You can also get maps on line.) The central area of Antigua is very compact and walkable on your own.  (You should have about 4 hours there.)  Plenty of info on line about what to see in Antigua.

 

In January, we'll be taking our second Canal cruise (another full transit).  Santa Marta is one of our ports (it wasn't on our first cruise), and I too am unsure about what to do there, even after researching this port.

My cruise doesn't offer "Antigua on your own", but there is a 5 1/2 tour including Antigua and a jade museum & factory. I suspect it will give some time on our own in Antigua, so maybe I'll sign up for that.

 

If you figure out anything for Santa Marta, let me know. I'm looking at something from the cruise called "The Wild Beauty of Tayrona National Park". There isn't much else being offered that looks interesting to me.

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I have done Antigua on your own twice, once on Infinity, and once on Carnival Splendor.  With Splendor, it was not offered online - they wanted you to book the full tour - but it was offered once you got onboard.  We only had a couple of hours to wander around, but since it was my third visit, I knew where we wanted to go.  EM

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On 5/28/2019 at 2:22 AM, BillB48 said:

What would you like to know about the train? 

 

May seem like a stupid question, but how does one get from the ship to the railroad?  At what point along the rails does the excursion railroad journey begin?

 

Thanks much!

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