HAL "Canal Experience to Colon"
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We took the panama canal by boat excursion, which was long but wonderful. This involves boarding a motorcoach for a 1.5 hour ride to a yacht harbor on the other side of gatun lake. You then travel by small boat through the rest of the canal, including the other 2 sets of locks. Although it was amazing to transit the Gatun locks on the coral princess, it was an equally wonderful but very different experience being in the smaller ferry for the second two sets of locks (we could actually touch the walls of the lock chamber and feel the temperature difference as the water level dropped). It really was the best of both worlds!
After leaving the small boat in Panama City, there was another 1.5 hour motorcoach ride back to the Cristobal Pier in Colon. There is shopping at the pier...we especially loved the Embera Indian baskets and tagua nut carvings which can be found just before you reboard the ship. There are also dancers, including both natives, and traditional Panamanian, and both were great.