Panama Canal port experiences

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3 Posts
Joined Sep 2009
We were on Celebrity Infinity for a 14 day trip from San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale starting Oct. 25. We stopped in Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, Huatalco, Puntarenas, Cristobal Pier and Cartagena. I thought I would post my experiences about the ports, not about the cruise. There is plenty of info about what ship to pick, less info about port activities. In Cabo, you can easily book snorkling trips from the tender dock- we used Sun Riders- and had a great time for a lot less than the ship tours. In Acapulco, the tour guides at the dock and the taxi drivers seemed very agressive. We took pesos to pay for a local cab and were surprised that they didin't want to take their own currency. Take dollars, lots of dollars, as a lot of stores will also give you a bigger discount if you don't use a credit card. The old town is kind of depressing, not great shopping for crafts that I like. At Huatalco, the ships docks right on a nice beach at Santa Cruz. Plan a beach day, no tour. I had heard that La Crucita Beach was the best, but I was afraid to take a cab and then be stranded. However, it is really close and really, really beautiful, in the same big bay as the cruise ship. We rented a jet ski on Santa Cruz beach and were there in a couple of minutes. We took a cab to town, only $3, but not really worth it. Stay at the beach. In Puntarenas, (not the Caldera port), the ship also docks at a beach. Grey sand, not too appealing but crowded with locals on the weekend. This had the best craft shopping at the beach- lots of nice wood working and appliqued clothing. We booked our own zip line tour with Vista De Golfo and it was fabulous. Best trip of the tour- 28 zip lines vs the ship tour of 8, for the same money. On the canal we stayed on the ship, no side trip. It was pouring rain, which I guess it does a lot so take that into consideration if planning to get off. Some tours allowed people to watch our ship go through the Gatun lock, which would be very cool. Other people who did the Gamboa tram, didn't see the ship go through the lock and saw nothing on the tram as it was raining too hard. There was very little at Cristobal pier, but it was a national holiday so alot of market stalls were closed. Cartagena walled city is absolutely beautiful with cool little streets, and upscale stores. You can easily arrange a guide at the beautiful dock area (a garden), tour guides in white and taxis in blue. I did have a real problem though that I could not get someone just to take me where I wanted to go without dragging me to their cousin's emerald stores!! I really would have been happy just to pay for a guides time, but it didn't appear to be possible. Most agressive, obnoxious taxi and van drivers: Ft. Lauderdale. We were yelled at that we couldn't stand in front of a cetain line to see if others wanted a share to Miami; a woman was yelling that if we weren't 6 people we couldn't take a van. Bottom line- if you arrive in Ft. Lauderdale and have a plane from Miami- the cab is $75, the van with a pre-arranged 6 people is $23, or you can pay $16 to the FLL airport and rent a car one way to Miami (which is what we did.) Hope this info is helpful.
1,138 Posts
Joined Jul 2007
So are you saying that if you could do it again would you take a cab to La Crucita Beach in Huatulco?
You said you did it on a jet ski. How far would it have been from the pier if you had taken a taxi do you know?
3 Posts
Joined Sep 2009
I was told by a local on the beach where the ship was docked that it would be a 10 minute cab ride. I wouldn't recommend renting a jet ski to spend the day there, much too expensive. I only mentioned it to show how close the beach really is.
1,138 Posts
Joined Jul 2007
Thanks for your response. Do you feel it would be an issue finding a cab to return? We love great beaches so wondering if this is worth the "worry"
Vero Beach, FL
119 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
Thank you so much for your info. We are going on a similar cruise with RC next September. Great choices for each port.
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Solarium, Jewel of the Seas

Brilliance of the Seas (Key West-Cozumel 04/2017)
Navigator of the Seas (Southern Caribbean 01/2018)

Past Cruises:

Oasis of the Seas (Eastern Caribbean 10/2016)
Enchantment of the Seas (Bahamas 5/2016) - Diamond
Navigator of the Seas (Western Caribbean 12/2015)
Jewel of the Seas (Southern Caribbean 3/2015)
Liberty of the Seas (Western Caribbean 11/2014)
Jewel of the Seas (Western Caribbean 2/2012)

Monarch of the Seas (Bahamas 1/2012)
Radiance of the Seas (Panama Canal 9/2010)
Crown Princess (Eastern Caribbean 4/2009)
Grandeur of the Seas (Western Caribbean 12/2008)
Jewel of the Seas (Eastern Caribbean 2/2008) Wedding/Honeymoon
Sovereign of the Seas (Bahamas 9/2007)
Carnival Imagination (Western Caribbean 5/2004)
No. Virginia
1,057 Posts
Joined Sep 2000
There is a beach called Playa la Entrega which can be seen to the left as you enter Santa Cruz bay which we plan to visit next time we are in Huatulco. According to some fellow travellers, it was $5 to get there by taxi and I was never able to find out how much the water taxi cost. La Crucecita is the largest nearby town but it is inland from the port. It is a lovely small Mexican town with a square and lots of shops.

As far as dollars vs. pesos, sometimes it was good to use pesos, and sometimes it was good to use dollars. The exchange rate is around 12-13 to 1 so you kind of lose on a large purchase when you pay with dollars since the exchange is usually done 10 to 1 because it is easier that way. But, in Cabo you are better off just using dollars as it seems to be the preferred currency there. I would not use a credit card in Mexico as there is too much chance of fraud. Receipts generally include your entire credit card number and expiration date so it's pretty easy for someone to get access to your account number. Also, most credit card companies charge a 2-3% fee for foreign currency conversion on purchases outside of the US.
Kansas, the Heartland of America
5,955 Posts
Joined Jun 2001
ally09: you mentioned that at Cristobal some of the stalls were closed, so I guess you were allowed off the ship to shop in the warehouse? We are on the Connie, and have a stop there from 6 to 9.
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Granddog Spike

58 cruises on 13 lines....RCL (4), Sun (1), Costa (1), NCL(4), Epirotiki (1), Princess (10), Regency(1),HAL(4), Cunard(1), Celebrity(23), KD(1), Grand Circle(3) MSC (2)

532 days at sea......