Subscribe today
Get Cruise Critic in your inbox
Your Ultimate Cruise Guide

Colon (Cristobal) Gatun Locks Excursion Reviews

Colon (Cristobal) Gatun Locks cruise excursion
Overall Rating
Take a trip through the famous and extremely interesting Gatun Locks of the Panama Canal to see how ships uniquely pass through -- you will be amazed!
Member Image RobTexas
3 reviews
Not Rated
Mar 2014

Everything we had read and heard about Colon told us it is not a safe place to try and do on your own. We opted to take an excursion that visited the visitor centers for the Panama Canal expansion and the existing locks. This turned out to be really interesting excursion. We went first to see the expansion. After a 20 minute video went to two observation points to see the work being done and the construction site for the new locks. Truly amazing. We then were bussed to the existing locks, and got great views of a fully loaded container ship and a cruise ship going through. We were fortunate that there were only two buses at these sites. When we actually came through the locks the next day, there were many more people there. Getting a good viewing spot would have been a lot more difficult.
Driving through Colon, you do have to travel through some of the poorest, most rundown neighborhoods I have ever seen. It is easy to understand why the cruise people warn you not to go out alone.
There is fairly large shopping area within the "safe" confines of the cruise port where you can find a number of bars and cafes (most of which seemed to provide Wi-Fi access). In addition there is a supermarket and a duty free electronics store. It didn't seem to me that there were any great deals there.

Read RobTexas's full Celebrity Infinity cruise review
Provider: Celebrity Cruises
Member Image hvbaskey
1 review
Dec 2013

Our final private tour (ie., just my husband and myself). Gonzalez Horna of Birding Pal picked us up promptly at 6:30 am in Colon, Panama. We were the first ones off the ship! He immediately drove us to the Gatun Locks whereby we were hoping to cross before any traffic. Unfortunately, a silly bus rushed the planks - bumped into a wall and had a flat tire, being stuck on the car path that crossed the locks. Our guide did not waste any time waiting in line though, we successfully birded the area around the locks and saw beautiful Toucans, amongst other gorgeous birds. Finally, we crossed the Dam and headed towards the Gatun Spillway (Dam) where we spotted additional birds. After the Dam, we headed towards our Target destination - San Lorenzo National Forest - Achiote Town/Road. SPECTACULAR scenery and birding! The people of Panama are very friendly and we were happy to have a private guide who lives in Colon, knows the area and knows the people.

I know many people have said stay away from Colon, be careful in Colon - but do your homework as it can be a great visit, if you hire the right person. Gonzalo grew up in Colon and we always felt safe with him. He was a great guide and I recommend him and his team of friends to anyone wanting a great excursion from the Colon port of call.

Gonzalo had us back in plenty of time for the ship. Cannot say the same for an "Official Celebrity Excursion" who were left behind and had to be flown to our next port of call, Cartagena. The ship did wait and we were an hour late arriving in Columbia - but, yes! they left behind a Celebrity Excursion!

Read hvbaskey's full Celebrity Century cruise review
Provider: Celebrity Cruises
Member Image sabotlours
1 review
Dec 2013

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.

Read sabotlours's full Celebrity Century cruise review
Provider: Celebrity Cruises
Member Image tysona
2 reviews
Feb 2013
This was a great tour. The locks were amazing and the Indian village trip was excellent. But be warned you will get wet on the boat trip to the village.but an awsome experience.
Read tysona's full Celebrity Equinox cruise review
Provider: Celebrity Cruises
Member Image kitkat343
4 reviews
Jan 2013
In Panama, the Coral Princess docks at Gatun Lake and only allows passengers who have signed up for a Princess tour to leave the boat, as per Panama Canal Authority regulations. The boat returns back through the locks and then docks in Colon, where passengers on Princess cruise tours are able to reboard. We signed up for a short tour Gatun Lakes Cruise and Locks so we would be able to give our son a nap before he got overtired. Unfortunately, we were not informed until the day before Panama when it was too late to switch tours that there would be a substantial gap between when our tour ends, and when we would be allowed to reboard the ship. We were told at the end of the tour that we would be allowed back on the ship in an hour when it docked. The ship arrived on time one hour later, but no one was allowed to board for another hour, and the Panamanian authorities would not tell us when we would be allowed to board. That led to two very long hours standing outside of an elevator at the port in Colon with a screaming toddler who needed to nap. If we had known about this gap ahead of time, we would have either chosen a longer tour with the Embera Indians or simply disembarked in Colon and taken a cab from Colon to the nearby Gatun locks (although if you are planning this, please check the operating hours at Gatun locks, since I don't know what time they close, and the docking time for the Princess boats at Colon can vary based upon canal traffic). People without children who take short Princess tours in Panama are not likely to experience significant problems with the delay in reboarding the ship, since there is a very affordable supermarket and several restaurants with free wifi in the Port of Colon. The Princess Gatun lake cruise that we took was not very good, since there was very little wildlife (two monkeys and one sloth) and no other ships on Gatun lake. Wildlife and ship traffic are not guaranteed and on another day people might have more luck seeing interesting things on this tour but overall we were disappointed that our only Princess tour was the most disorganized tour we took on this cruise, and we would not want to utilize cruise tours in the future. Travelers with disabilities or those with small children should note that there are approximately 150 steps to climb to reach the viewing platform at Gatun. There is a platform on ground level for visitors with disabilities, but you can't really see much from there. Parents can, however, take turns with one supervising children on the downstairs platform, and the other climbing the stairs to watch the locks in action. People with disabilities may prefer taking a Princess cruise tour that brings you directly to Miraflores locks, which has a restaurant, a museum explaining the history of building the Panama Canal, and an elevator. Miraflores was chosen to be the visitor center because it is located closest to Panama City, but Gatun generally has more ship traffic so you have more of an opportunity to see the locks in action at Gatun. Princess passengers who want to travel to Miraflores should book this tour prior to departure to ensure that it isn't sold out, since passengers will be unable to travel to Miraflores independently. You can also cancel tours on the boat (I believe they require 24 hours notice for a full refund) so please consider booking a Princess tour if you think you might want to travel to Miraflores.
Read kitkat343's full Coral Princess cruise review
Provider: Princess Cruises
Member Image lukin2006
1 review
Dec 2012
at this port you need to book an excursion.
Read lukin2006's full Celebrity Century cruise review
Provider: Celebrity Cruises
Member Image SJandSinFolsom
1 review
Dec 2012
I really enjoyed the Locks. We saw a few ships going through the locks and it was fascinating. This was the best part of our cruise in my opinion.
Read SJandSinFolsom's full Celebrity Equinox cruise review
Provider: Celebrity Cruises
Member Image jeffnjan
1 review
Dec 2012
A must see! It only took about 30 minutes to see how things work and we got to see some huge ships go through, very interesting.
Read jeffnjan's full Celebrity Equinox cruise review
Provider: Celebrity Cruises
Member Image ANCdude
4 reviews
Nov 2012
We wathced three ships transit the Gatun Locks and then visited the observation area for the new lock construction. Very well put together tour and truly worth the cost if operation of the canal is of interest to you.
Read ANCdude's full Celebrity Infinity cruise review
Provider: Celebrity Cruises
Member Image CruisinPeechez305
1 review
Feb 2012
Definitely checked going through the Panama Canal off the bucket list!
Read CruisinPeechez305's full Celebrity Equinox cruise review
Provider: Victor Bodden

Sponsored links

Thank You For Signing Up!

Please Note: To ensure delivery of your free e-letters, please add news@cruisecritic.com to your address book.
We're committed to protecting your privacy and will not rent or sell your e-mail address. By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.