Posted September 24th, 2017, 09:12 AM
Either excursion would not present any serious difficulties to someone who uses a cane. Most of the negatives I have read concerning the ferry usually stem from the fact that often times it can be a long day. Most of the tour descriptions I have seen list the excursion as 6 to 7 hours, which is a reasonable estimate. However much is dependent on the ship traffic in the Canal and whether or not they choose to lock the "ferry" through the locks by itself or in tandem with a larger vessel.
On the ferry excursion at least there is the possibility there may be a chance to tempt some denizen of the deep with your toes
since part of the excursion is actually in the Pacific. The ferry excursion is a great way to see a large part of the Canal without taking a full transit cruise. The ferry excursion also provides an opportunity to view the operation from your large Panamax ship and then from the smaller ferry. Really two different experiences to compare. I realize the ferry excursion is on the pricey side, but I think it is worth it. There is so much more to see, the Gaillard Cut, two great bridges, the two Pacific Locks, various islands that dot the Bay of Panama, Panama City's striking skyline and of course the Pacific Ocean!
The railroad trip is interesting and certainly historical since the Panama Railroad was the first transcontinental railroad and while not the fastest, it certainly is the quickest! The trip across the Isthmus on the RR is usually just over an hour. Often times they will offer the excursion using the RR one way and then the other way by bus. Although the RR skirts the Canal on its route, except in a few places you won't see much of the Canal. The way the tour operates you probably will not see the Pacific Ocean. Even though I am a railroad buff, I think the ferry excursion is the better option.
Here is a recent thread on the ferry excursion I participated in, perhaps it can provide you with a little more info... http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2473574
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S.S. Badger R/T from Manitowoc June 02