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CruiserBruce, thank you. I went back and looked and you are right.
Princess and Holland only do Cartegena. Celebrity sometimes does both Colon and Cartegena.
If a person does the canal just once, it sounds like a full transit is probably the better bet. Ideally, we'd also be able to see the monkeys and the Embera Villages. I'm just confused about all of that, Colon, and Cartegena.
Jody and Judy
*2014: Sun Princess, Sydney/New Zealand
*2014: Royal Princess, New England & Canada
2014: Holland Amsterdam, Panama Canal
2014: Ruby Princess, B2B2B2B Caribbean
2013: Holland Prinsendam, Greece & Turkey
2013: Holland Zaandam, Alaska
2013: Diamond Princess, Alaska
2012: Carnival Breeze, B2B, Mediterranean
2011: Carnival Triumph, Caribbean
2011: Crown Princess, British Isles
Cartagena is in Columbia, and has nothing to do, directly, with the Canal. It is a very interesting city, but not the best to DIY. The approach to the port is very scenic...good reason to be on deck for an hour or so prior to docking. Lots of interesting sights around the harbor also.
We have been in the Canal 3 times. Twice on full transits, once on a partial. Yes, if it was a once in a life time event, I would definitely say do a full transit. But it boils down to what you can do, financially and otherwise.
Princess does offer a full transit cruise with a stop at Ft. Amador, the problem is that they do not offer the stop at Ft. Amador on every cruise. Celebrity on the other hand I believe stops at Colon on all of their Canal cruises.
As long as the ship makes a full day stop at either of Ft. Amador or Colon, you should have the full range of shore excursions available which would include a visit to the Embera Indians.
The nice thing about Ft. Amador is that it is closer to Panama City attractions, but it is a tender port. Colon on the other hand is docked but not quite as convenient to Panama City because it involves a little longer bus ride. The difference is almost a wash if you are considering excursions to the Embera Indians, The Aerial Tram and Monkey Island
In Colon, you could arrange for a private shore excursion with a local tour operator.... there's nothing inherently unsafe about that. You just don't want to set out on foot in Colon to soak up any local culture, Colon is certainly not the garden spot of the Caribbean. It is safe to browse around in the mall that is adjacent to the pier. Lots of people have engaged local tour operators in Cartagena as well, I just don't think you want to head out completely on your own with out the benefit of a tour guide or at least a cab driver. There is a lot to see in the old walled city of Cartagena.
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S.S. Badger R/T from Manitowoc June 02
If you do a partial transit you can do a ferry through the canal, then bus back. However, you don't have time do that and also go to the authentic Embera villages or monkeys on Gatun Lake?
Correct. Canal Ferry, Authentic Embera Village and Gatun Lake exploration, what they're now calling "Monkey Island" - all I believe are full day tours. I know the Ferry and real Embera village are all day trips.
If you do a full transit, the ship will go through the canal. However, if it only stops at Colon (as most itineraries seem to), you still can't do the Embera villages?
A ship just transiting is not going to stop in Panama. If you're coming this way you should experience Panama. That is why some cruise lines have a 2-day Panama experience with a day transiting the Canal and a day at either end to see Panama. If you have a full day, as opposed to a few hours, you can do the authentic Embera village. Most cruise lines offer this and you can book independently through Emberavillagetours.com and others.
Colon and Cartegena are not advised to DIY?
Cartagena is a WONDERFUL city particularly the restored old town. You can get a cab, go there and spend a wonderful day wandering, shopping and eating. It is what you really want to see in Cartagena. All the ship tours will visit emerald stores, which, Judy, is maybe what you'd like!
There is nothing of touristic interest in Colon. It is not a safe city in which to wander around which is a shame because it could be restored like old Cartagena. But for now . . . no! However you can get a cab (all cabs in Panama must be yellow with checkered stripes) and visit Gatun Locks and see the new Canal construction as well.