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Cruises to Colon (Cristobal)

Colon (Cristobal) (Photo:Don Fink/Shutterstock)

About Colon (Cristobal)

Panama's Colon is best known as the gateway to the Gatun Locks and newer Agua Clara locks, where visitors can watch the Panama Canal -- one of the world's greatest feats of engineering -- in action. (The equally magnificent Miraflores Locks also are a roughly one-hour drive from the city.) The canal is only one of the region's many attractions, however. Colon, situated on Panama's Atlantic side, is home to the world's first transcontinental railway; its magnificent red and gold trains traverse Central America from the Atlantic to the Pacific in a single afternoon. The country's vast, virgin rainforest is home to sloths, 10,000 plant species and 900 species of birds, including harpy eagles.

Having regained control of its famous canal at the turn of the 21st Century, Panama is now steering its own boat in terms of tourism (its second-largest economy after the canal). Significant development programs over the past several years have welcomed new beaches as well as several enhancements to Balboa (another major port, on the Pacific side).

Colon itself is in the middle of an approximately $500-million urban renewal project aimed at improving the city's image and boosting tourism. (Most cruise passengers that begin or end their journey in Colon stay in Panama City instead of Colon, due to the city's reputation for street crime and lack of central attractions.)

The project includes the development of a new duty-free shopping center at one of Colon's main docking areas, Colon 2000, as well as park restoration and the construction of a new retail mall, bus terminal and hospital. Colon 2000 currently offers only a couple shops, restaurants and bars; there is also an ATM on site. Although the project's initial plans estimated its completion to be in 2019, the city still has a long way to go.

Colon's other docking area, Cristobal Pier, is smaller but offers a craft market and folklore shows. Regardless of where a cruise ship docks, visitors can experience both places, as the two cruise terminals are within easy reach of each other.

While those who aren't comfortable with exploring on their own are advised to stick with the ship-sponsored shore excursions, it is perfectly possible to explore farther afield as long as you're careful. This means using registered taxis (Uber is also an option) and following the usual safe traveler rules: Let people know where you're going and when you're due back, and don't flash cash or flaunt expensive jewelry.

The province of Colon, rich in history and endowed with pristine beaches and exotic plants and bird life, will certainly repay the effort. Yes, it has its problems, but its future is prosperous and there are as many good, honest and welcoming people there as anywhere. Plus, a visit to Colon gives you the rare opportunity to see off-the-beaten-track parts of Panama, some of which are truly unspoiled.

  • Why go to Colon (Cristobal)?

  • Colon (Cristobal) Cruise Port Facilities?

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Azamara Quest
Azamara Quest

16 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

669 Reviews
Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Azamara
Jan 7, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Celebrity Constellation
Celebrity Constellation

11 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

1,726 Reviews
Leaving:Tampa
Cruise Line:Celebrity Cruises
Mar 7, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Celebrity Constellation
Celebrity Constellation

11 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Leaving:Tampa
Cruise Line:Celebrity Cruises
Jan 24, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Caribbean Princess
Caribbean Princess (Photo: Princess Cruises)

10 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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9 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Leaving:Panama City
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Mar 20, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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10 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
Jan 18, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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11 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Leaving:Tampa
Cruise Line:Celebrity Cruises
Dec 23, 2021
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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12 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Nov 12, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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14 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Leaving:Bayonne
Cruise Line:Royal Caribbean International
Oct 27, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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11 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Cruise Line:Royal Caribbean International
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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13 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Leaving:Galveston
Cruise Line:Royal Caribbean International
Apr 29, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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14 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Leaving:New York
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Nov 6, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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11 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Cruise Line:Holland America Line
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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10 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
Mar 13, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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16 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Feb 4, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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11 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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11 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Cruise Line:Celebrity Cruises
Nov 21, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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12 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Leaving:Colon
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Cruise Critic Favorite

14 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Leaving:Barbados
Cruise Line:Royal Caribbean International
Jan 9, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Cruise Critic Favorite

11 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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8 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Leaving:Colon
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Mar 4, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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15 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Apr 16, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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11 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Cruise Line:Celebrity Cruises
Dec 22, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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11 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Cruise Line:Celebrity Cruises
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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9 Night
Cruise to Colon (Cristobal)Details

Leaving:Panama City
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Why go to Colon (Cristobal)?

Pros:

You'll find it all -- from duty-free goods to encounters with indigenous people -- right at the port.

Cons:

Until its urban renewal project is complete, Colon remains a somewhat shabby city with few central attractions.

Bottom Line:

Colon is the gateway to the Panama Canal and conveniently located one hour from Panama City.

Colon (Cristobal) Cruise Port Facilities?

Cruise ships utilize two ports for visits to Colon: Colon 2000 and Cristobal Pier.

Colon 2000: As its name reflects, Colon 2000 was constructed at the turn of millennium to encourage cruise ships to bring their passengers into Panama, rather than heading straight through its canal. The port provides a clean, protected environment and well-regulated taxi services. As soon as you enter the terminal, you'll notice how its secure facilities contrast with the "rough around the edges" appearance of the surrounding area. An overhead walkway leads passengers to the facility's small selection of shops (many are closed or vacant with the urban renewal project underway) and larger department-type store with bargain-priced liquor, electronics, perfumes and other goods (including free-zone goods), as well as a few restaurants and bars.

Cristobal Pier: Cristobal Pier is about 3 miles from Colon 2000, the main port and duty-free shopping zone at the Caribbean end of the Panama Canal. Regulated taxis run between the two, and the journey takes about 10 minutes. The gigantic warehouse-cum-hangar has been converted into a pleasant, welcoming passenger facility with a flea market at one end and an internet cafe and indoor/outdoor, sea-view bar at the other. There you'll find a range of wood-fronted vendors selling local craftwork (like embroidered sundresses, tablecloths, elaborate baskets and woodwork produced by local Panamanian-Indian tribes) and free-zone goods, including sunglasses and electronics at bargain prices. The shops are arranged around an indoor courtyard area where local dance troupes give folkloric performances.

Good to Know?

Protect your wallet. Street crime is a real possibility in Colon, so don't flash cash or wear expensive jewelry.

If you're going alone by taxi (rather than taking a ship's shore excursion), be prepared to wait until the tours have departed. Taxi drivers can only pick up passengers from the port complex once the last tour coach has left.

Getting Around?

By Taxi: Cabs are plentiful. Drivers are regulated, and their runs are closely monitored. Taxi organizers will take your name, your ship, your departure time, your expected time of return and the name and number of the driver with whom you are traveling. Look for the central desk at the Colon 2000 complex. 

Drivers will also offer a printed tariff of fares: $3 will get you from either port to any point within the perimeters of Colon City, though wandering about on your own here is not recommended. Some cab drivers will offer lower fares than the official tariff if approached directly, but we'd recommend taking the official route for peace of mind. 

Colon's taxi drivers offer a wide array of go-as-you-please tours, listed on a written tariff (so there should be no embarrassing haggling when you get there, though it's worth negotiating waiting time and investigating ferry fares or entrance fees in advance). Or, take an affordable taxi-based city tour, which will show you the main sights of Colon.

By Rideshare: Uber is even more affordable than taxi services, though wait times for drivers are less reliable and vary based on time and availability.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

Local currency in Panama is the Balboa, which has parity with the U.S. dollar. To find current exchange rates, visit www.xe.com. Dollars are accepted everywhere, and the port shops take credit cards (though stallholders in the flea market do not). If you run short, there are ATM machines at both ports.

Language?

Spanish is the official language. Some taxi drivers and shop owners speak enough English to have a conversation, as do several employees at the grocery store in port, but the majority know only a few words. Be sure to bone up on common phrases before leaving home, download an app to your smartphone, or bring a phrasebook.


Colon (Cristobal) Cruise Reviews
tour in Colon is really a mess right now with renovations and buildings being torn down. Streets are difficult to navigate. Canal tour was very interesting and enjoyable.Read More
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April45
Long, somewhat slow and boring (8 hours). Expensive. Read More
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sandykj
Colon is the Embarkation point for the cruise. We booked a Windstar transfer from Panama City to Colon, which is described in the body of this review. I don't consider Colon a shore-excursion destination.Read More
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CruiseOrLand
Took a taxi tour around to the old city and the fort. Didn’t stay long, just a quick walk. It was very hot and the drive was very busy. Lovely area right at the port terminal with wildlife and shopping.Read More
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Johoa

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