Ship docked right next to the downtown and main shopping areas. We did not take a ship excursion as we have been here before. We walked off the ship, went through the cruise terminal, and walked out onto the main street. Turning right, we walked down towards the Renaissance Hotel. There was a marketplace with a Starbucks which had free wifi access. A little further down the street was a small park on the waterfront which had iguanas running around. We crossed the street and headed back towards the main shopping areas. There is a large "I love Aruba" sign for picture taking. Most vendors will accept USD. Be sure to bring water with you as it was very hot and humid.
Ship docked at the industrial port of Manga. A kiosk is located on the dock near the ship where you can get a free map. We opted to do this port on our own. There is a free shuttle bus which will take you from your ship to the cruise terminal. Otherwise it is about a quarter mile walk. In the terminal area, there are flamingos, peacocks, monkeys, and parrots, as well as some shopping and eating venues. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Old Walled City and is approximately 2 miles from the ship. To get there we took a taxi outside the terminal for $10 USD total. We were dropped off at the clock tower, or entrance to the Old Walled City. Across the street was the convention center. We walked into the Old Walled City and walked to Piazza Aguana, San Pedro Claver Church, toured the emerald museum (free), toured the gold museum (free), walked to Piazza Bolivar, Inquisition Palace, Cartagena Cathedral, Santo Domingo Cathedral, walked the wall to Las Bovedas and then took a taxi back to the cruise ship. Again, the fare was $10 USD total. Be aware that the street vendors are very aggressive in the town. Just keep walking, avoid eye contact, and tell them "no, gracias", unless you are interested in doing a purchase. Most vendors will take USD. Be sure to bring water with you as it was very hot and humid.
Panama Canal: Cruise ship transit through the Gatun Locks was awesome. Because this was just a partial transit, the cruise ship dropped anchor in Gatun Lake. You can only get off the ship onto a tender if you have booked a ship's excursion. At this point, we got off the ship on an excursion which would take us through the rest of the locks to the Pacific Ocean. After getting to shore on the tender, we boarded an air conditioned bus which took us to Gamboa. The bus ride was around an hour. In Gamboa, we boarded a smaller ferry. The ferry transported us across Gatun Lake and through both the Pedro Miguel and the Miraflores locks. We were able to see the new construction of the expanded locks, the Centennial Bridge, and the Bridge of the Americas by taking this tour. The ferry docked at the end of Panama City. Here we boarded an air conditioned bus which transported us back to Colon, Panama, which was about a 1.5 hour bus ride. The ship was docked close to the downtown and the main shopping areas in Colon. Colon: The ship docked close to downtown late in the day. This was due to the fact that the ship had to go back through the Gatun Locks to the Caribbean, and to pick up the passengers that got off in Gatun Lake for excursions. (All excursions ended up in Colon). In this downtown area, there were numerous shops and restaurants.
We saw one of the many banana plantations. There were rows of banana trees. We visited the packing operation and witnessed the bananas being processed and packed for shipping. We were educated about the growing, packing, and transportation of bananas. Very interesting.
The Tortuguero Canals Rating:
We took a boat ride on the canal where we saw assorted vegetation and wildlife.
The ship anchored away from the port and you had to be tendered to shore. The tender ride was around 15 minutes. The tender docked close to the downtown and main shopping area. We did not do an excursion as we have been here before. We walked around on the streets. Most vendors will accept USD. Be sure to bring water with you as it was very hot and humid.