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!
Read bestofXs's full Celebrity Equinox cruise review