It was nice to get away from the touristy Cabo and visit a more typical laid-back Mexican town. It was about an hour bus ride to the town, and our tour guide was very knowledgeable about the area. The town itself is nothing spectacular, but rather a nice view into life in the desert. Shopping opportunities are limited, but just enough as to not be overwhelmed. Lunch was at the Hotel California and was rather disappointing. It was a small plate of "gringofied" Mexican food.
Nothing was planned for this port except a nice walk (about 1.8 miles) to the local Costco to see how a Mexican Costco compares to a U S version. Answer: about the same. It was then back to the port but not before seeing how a Mexican Walmart compares to one in the U.S. Answer: Just change the signs from English/Spanish to Spanish/English and there you have it.
This review is biased because I am a train nut. It was an interesting and relaxing ride through the Costa Rican countryside on an old narrow-gauge railroad. My only complaint was that they herded us directly from the bus to the train leaving us with zero opportunity to photograph the train or the old station. There were very limited opportunities at the end of the ride since we simply stopped at a grade crossing.
The second part of the trip was a boat ride on the Tarcoles River. This was also a very fun trip especially as our guide fed raw chicken to hungry crocodiles. My only complaint was that the trip was too short as we just started to appreciate the variety of plant and bird life found along the river.
The port of Puntarenas was nothing to write home about. There were numerous vendors found along the beach near the pier, but the prices seemed a bit high and there was little bargaining.
This excursion seemed quite expensive for the things that were included. There was a brief tour of the present set of locks and then another brief tour of the construction site for the new set of locks. While it was interesting, it seemed that it would have been cheaper to just rent a taxi and go out to the sites on our own.
Colon itself reminded me of post-Katrina New Orleans. We talked to another couple who went off into the town on their own. They were picked up by the "tourist police" and brought back to the ship for their own safety.
It's worthwhile to check out the local 99 Supermarket. We picked up several bags of Panamanian coffee at a reasonable price. No need to worry about exchanging money since the good old greenback is still the official currency.
It was a nice sampler to a magnificent city, but there were several occasions where our group was herded into shops where the guide was probably getting a kickback. It was also sometimes hard to understand the significance of a particular place due to the number of tours around and the size of the group. It would have been better to just rent a taxi and get dropped off in Old Town where you could explore the place on your own.