We booked an 8 hour (9 AM- 5 PM) tour through our Celebrity cruise ship. If you book an independent tour and you don't get back to the ship in time - it will not wait for you. The cost was $164.00 per person - but worth it!
The tour company that Celebrity hired was Aventuras 2000. They provided the bus transportation, ferry ride through 3 locks, free bottled cold water & soda & a buffet lunch. They also had a small gift area on board & beer was available for $2. Tiny, but clean bathrooms. Our guide on our bus was Joshua (who admitted he is a "Speak-a-holic" & our driver was Raul.
We boarded an AC bus and drove for 1 1/4 hours to a river past the Gatun lock & lake. We had to wait on the bus for 1/2 hour until we got clearance and then we boarded the local ferry boat that was just reserved for the Celebrity ship passengers.
Joshua suggested to sit on the port (left) side. But, after walking around it seemed that it was breezier at the stern and still in the shade. We left the pier about noon and went through the Miguel Lock and the two Mira Flores Locks that were built in 1913. We entered the 1st Mira Flores Locks at 2 PM and exited the 2nd lock at 3 PM. On our tour we went under the Centennial Bridge & the Bridges of America.
The buffet lunch was served about 1 PM. Chicken shish kabob, macaroni salad, green beans & carrots, cheese sandwich (no crust) potato & egg squares with a toothpick, watermelon & pineapple cubes & a muffin.
Joshua noted that the water level is lowered by gravity - not pumped. The water level goes down approximately 3 feet per minute. The Miguel Lock is a drop of 37 feet, so about 12 minutes. Between the two Mira Flores Locks it is a total of 54 feet drop or 18 minutes. When you get to the bottom - it's like being in a very deep pit - absolutely no air flow. Fortunately I had brought a hand fan! Then once the water level is even on both sides - the double locks open slowly.
We arrived in Panama City on the Pacific Ocean at 4:15 and back onto the air conditioned bus. Arrived back in Colon at 5:25 PM. A very long day!
Would I do it again - no. Been there - done that!!!! But, would I recommend it to a friend - definitely!
Ok, so we liked the tour but we didn't think that the price justified the tour. The Panama Canal tour was up close look at the locks, two ships crossed when we were there, my husband was thrilled. The train ride was about an hour through the jungle and lake, after we drove near Panama City and stopped by a small shopping area for ice cream and shopping. The train ride was a waste of time and money. Don't eat the sandwich that they give you at the bus, junk. We were dropped at Colon, which is a hole in the wall run-down port, to wait for the ship. We waited about three plus hours. Find the Lebanese restaurant and eat there, it's clean and the food is delicious. The day did not worth the money.
We took the boat tour where we boarded a bus from Gatun Lake, drove down 45-minutes and boarded a boat to pass through the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel, all the way out to the Pacific Ocean. It was nice to actually be in a ferry boat so you can see how immense the canal is! They served lunch, which the Tour folks said was a C+ lunch and it was. Overall, it was a great tour, was it worth $179.00 per person, nah. We met the ship at Colon and there's a nice shopping area at the port and a big supermarket as well, so stock up on snacks, soda, and water. They take USD so no worries and the prices are comparable to back home.
This is a must. No large ship can give you the real feel of the locks like the smaller boat. We had a large tanker follow us through the locks, really got a close up view of how things work and how tight fitting it is. Fed a light lunch which was wonderful. Pork Shish ka bob, two salads, little sandwiches, choc, cake and fruits. Lots of water to drink. The guide was very informative. Its a very long day so be sure to bring and umbrella, you are in the rain forest, as we got dumped on twice. Have a hat to keep the sun off your head. Great excursion.
We saw Safaricks Zoological Park first which was okay for a rescue zoo but disappointing compared to other zoos we've visited. Visit to Panama Canal observation platform was the highlight of the trip. Tour guide was poorly educated to her role, however, and barely spoke to the group.
Very interesting tour of the canal and we were very lucky that there were three ships going through. This excursion is really a must, so that you can understand better what happens during your own ship transit through the canal.
This was the Expansion tour. As we drove closer to the old locks, the traffic congestion was terrible. The guide decided to go to the expansion section first, which was a great idea because we were the only folks there. We saw a film, then sat in the shade where he explained the view. The only problem here was that a recorded voice was also telling us what we saw (I guess for those folks who don't have a guide). By the time Celebrity comes back, these locks will be open and in use. We then went back to the old locks, where the crowds had shrunk. We had plenty of time for another explanation, this time from a live person sitting up the viewing area. It was very informative. If you can't climb the 90 or so steps to the viewing area, there's another shaded area at ground level. Due to the construction, it took us about an hour to drive back the few miles to the ship. Think seriously against taking a private tour in the afternoon, due to traffic issues.
Roberto is a 35 year employee of the Panama Canal system who does independant tours and has an in depth knowledge of the workings of the entire canal system. We were able to view the original Gatun Locks and also the soon to be opened "new" locks which were in the final months of completion. Roberto provided us with an Air Conditioned bus, and also was able to show us the countryside, and small business operating along the roadside where we were able to obtain snacks and a cool drink.
Our main goal for this trip was to see the canal. In Gatun Lake we disembarked and took a bus and boarded a ferry. We ended up taking the ferry all the way from Gatun Lake to the Pacific Ocean and thoroughly enjoyed it. We also had a unique experience of being in a minor collision with a freighter in the canal. No injuries but a little damage to our ferry. EXCITING!
This was an excursion we looked forward to but it turned out to be a long hot day, almost 12 hours! Our guide Ramses was very good, the tour interesting & luckily the ship waited for us as we were almost 3 hours late returning since we had to wait for the big ship that was transiting the canal with us.We sat inside on the ferry & were close to the lunch buffet. Water & pop was freely offered & there was also some refreshing fruit pieces available.
Specifically the "Panama Canal Ferry Tour".. yes they do mean it can take up to 12 hours; it did and it was more than well worth it. A "must see" for anyone interested in the history and operation of the Panama Canal.. Although partly on bus the 6 +/- hour ferry boat trip from Lake Gatun through the Culebra Cut, Pedro Miquel and Miraflores locks and on the the Pacific was simply awesome. Taking a 300 passenger ferry into a lock chamber followed by a "mega freighter" was another experience altogether.
we did the Gatun locks and expansion tour. We had the opportunity to see a couple of ships go through the canal and the guide was very informative. We then went to the expansion project and saw the progress on that. The excursion was interesting but a little long for what you got to see.
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