Excursions from Colon?

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#1
San Francisco
257 Posts
Joined Aug 2012
I am doing a full transit of the Panama Canal in November and am looking into excursions in Colon, Panama.

What, if any, are the advantages of the ferry transit and Gatun locks transit if you are doing a full transit on the cruise ship?

Colon sounds like a not very nice town. What are the best excursions from there if you are on a full transit cruise?
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#2
Florida
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Joined Feb 2006
You are right, Colon is certainly not the garden spot of the Caribbean! The good thing is there is really nothing for the tourist to see in Colon, it is just where the ship docks. Any of the tours that you may select will take you to other places than Colon. Probably one of the more popular tours that isn't centered around the Canal is a visit to the Embera Indians, probably about as close as you are going to get to a Nat Geo encounter. Another tour is to see the different Panama Cities, the ruins of Old Panama, then the Casco Antiguo (sometimes referred to as Colonial Panama) and of course modern day Panama City. Some cruise lines call this tour the "Shaping of Panama". Quite a contrast.

There is an excursion that takes you on the first transcontinental railroad. Excursions to Ft. San Lorenzo or Portobelo are usually offered as well.

The ferry excursion will take you over ground you will have already covered on your transit. The biggest advantage would be is seeing the operation from a smaller vessel. Sometimes you can feel a bit removed from the process while you are on a large ship.
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#3
New Castle, Delaware
854 Posts
Joined Jan 2014
My friend & I are doing a partial transit of the Panama Canal in March. I am looking at 2 different excursions in Gatun Lake to Colon. They are the Panama Canal by Ferry & 2 Oceans by Railroad. I have read some not pleasant reviews about the ferry so am also considering the railroad. I will be using a cane so am not real steady on my feet. They also listed Aerial Tram & Exhibits that looked interesting. But this is probably the closest I'll get to the Pacific so would probably prefer the ferry or railroad. I would love to dip my toes in the Pacific. My friend may not go on the excursion because of the price so I might be going alone.

Which of these choice excursions would you recommend?
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#4
Florida
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Joined Feb 2006
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