Mario Must Read!!!!!!!

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#1
309 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
We just returned home from our christmas cruise. In Panama we used Mario from myfriendmario for our excursion. He and his assistant Ivan were AWESOME. Mario was very prompt in returning my emails and gave me all the information I needed for our group.

At first I was told by Celebrity that we couldn't get off the boat in Gatun Lake unless we had an excursion planned Mario got us clearance and our group of 14 met him and his assistant right at the dock. He was wearing a hat that said I am Mario. He escorted us to a nice mini bus with AC and plenty of space. we proceeded to the locks where we got out and toured the locks at ground level. We got to see a huge cargo ship go through. It is amazing how fast the water can fill up and drain. Mario and Ivan were very knowledgable and added lots of interesting facts. We then took a scenic ride to the Embera Indian village. we baorded hollowed out logs (canoes) and took a short ride to the village. The village met us and gave us a wonderful lunch and dance performance. We then did some shopping (very nice wood carvings and baskets) at a reasonable price. We then got back in the canoes and went to a hidden waterfall where after a short hike we swam. It was so beautiful!!!! We thengot back in the bus and had panamanian ice cream that mario had gotten for our ride home. He also gave out a nice surprise souviner. The entire time Mario and his partner Ivan were explaining the panamanian culture and history. They both speak very good english and seem to be very honest and sincere people. I must add that they also provided water, soda, snacks and beer (they stopped 3 times for beer our guys can drink). They both went out of their way to make our excursion a memerable expeierence. We arrived back at Cristobal pier with 1 hour for shopping and such.

I can't say how pleases we were with this tour. I HIGHLY recommend Mario for anyone interested in touring Panama at half the price of the cruiseline excursions. Since being back I did receive a email from Mario thanking us and making sure we all made it home safly. He really is a wonderful tour guide. Don't listen to the cruise line get in touch with Mario and make your next Panama excursion one to remember.

Kelli
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00 RCCL Granduer of the Seas Eastern Carib.
01 Celebrity Century Eastern Carib.
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#2
long island n.y..
1,452 Posts
Joined Dec 2003
Kelli, I am so Happy to hear how wonderful Mario was.
My group of 67 people send him a deposit for our Liberty cruise next month
Thank you so much for you great review. I feel a little better now.
What time did you meet him? Will 6 hour be enough time
Thanks again
Lynn
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#3
309 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
We met him around 10:30. Plenty of time for evrything, You'll have a great time I'm sure. Tell Mario Hi for us.

Kelli
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95 RCCL Soverign of the Seas Eastern Carib.
00 RCCL Granduer of the Seas Eastern Carib.
01 Celebrity Century Eastern Carib.
05 Princess Star Western Carib.
06 Celebrity Galaxy 11 day pananma Canal
07 Norwegian Sun Western Carib
#5
long island n.y..
1,452 Posts
Joined Dec 2003
springfire,
I will let you know how we make out
Lynn
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#6
Houston, TX USA
1,549 Posts
Joined May 2001
What is his price for the tour?? Thanks
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#7
309 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
There are different tours and the price goes down with the number of people. myfriendmario.com

We had 14 and paid $65 pp.

Kelli
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01 Celebrity Century Eastern Carib.
05 Princess Star Western Carib.
06 Celebrity Galaxy 11 day pananma Canal
07 Norwegian Sun Western Carib
#10
25 Posts
Joined Nov 2004
We just got back from MyFriendMario from Colon, Panama and were very, very disappointed with the tour he set up. We were supposed to go to the Gatun Locks, a boat ride and an Indian Village and we did get all three. We also expected to get about an hour of shopping in. However, we went all the way to Panama mostly to see the Locks and of the 7 hour day at Panama we spent 15 minutes at the locks. The rest of the time was spent in a van traveling to and from the Indian Village- approx. time 2.5 hours in van- then we spent 1 hour to an hour and a half at a waterfall so the kids and Ivan- our tour guide- could swim and play, which they did, we spent 30-45 minutes in the boat and probably 2 and a half hours at the Indian Village. My wife was devastated by not being able to do any shopping after being assured by Ivan that we would be back by 3:00- Ship leaving at 3:30. We arrived back at the Ship at 3:40 sweating bullets in fear of being late. The driver drove like a madman and still we got at the locks at 3:00 and after 10 minutes of waiting for the water to rise and absolutely no relaxation with the time ticking down, the doors of the locks opened - hurrah- now we gotta go!- we hurried back to the van and raced back to the ship. Also- there were no rest facilities for the ladies- ALL DAY until we made it to the locks at 3 PM- the men and boys had the option of going in the woods or behind a bank of LOCKED Port-o-lets, (What's to steal?) Terrible Day.
#11
long island n.y..
1,452 Posts
Joined Dec 2003
Transitm, I am sorry to hear about your bad day in Panama.
I will have to talk to Mario about getting us back on time.
Maybe we will skip the village. Everyone in my group wants to spend time at the canal. I guess your ship waited for you. How scary is that! I would of been scared sick not getting back in time for the ship. How many people
from your ship were with Mario?
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OCEANIC 11/17/86
DISNEY WONDER 12/20/00
DISNEY MAGIC 2/09/02
NCL DAWN 11/23/03
CARNIVAL MIRACLE 2/20/05
CARNIVAL LIBERTY 2/18/06
CARNIVAL LEGEND 10/19/06
CARNIVAL FREEDOM 2/09/08
DISNEY WONDER 9/28/08
NCL DAWN 4/30/09
CARNIVAL PRIDE 2/14/10
CARNIVAL GLORY 7/31/10
CARNIVAL MIRACLE 4/14/2011
DISNEY DREAM 11/06/2011
CARNIVAL SPLENDOR 5/25/2013
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CARNIVAL SPLENDOR 11/09/2013 PLATINUM
INDEPENDENCE OF THE SEAS 01/12/2014
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#12
North Carolina
8,247 Posts
Joined Aug 2001
When booking independent tours in a place like Panama I can't stress how many variables there are that can make you late on return.. This is one place I would always do a ship tour and consider myself a very very seasoned traveler... IF you do miss a ship here it will cost you a fortune to meet the ship in the next port or, worse yet, to fly back to your port of embarkation and wait for your belongings to catch up with you.. it' not an easy country to get out of inexpensively. I know many of you are avid "independents" when it comes to shore tours but here, Jamaica and Colombia (does anyone go here any more) and maybe even Costa Rica have lots of variables going on that really nail you..
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Caroline
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#13
long island n.y..
1,452 Posts
Joined Dec 2003
Caroline, Thanks for the warning.
I will make sure we don't go to far from the port.
Lynn
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OCEANIC 11/17/86
DISNEY WONDER 12/20/00
DISNEY MAGIC 2/09/02
NCL DAWN 11/23/03
CARNIVAL MIRACLE 2/20/05
CARNIVAL LIBERTY 2/18/06
CARNIVAL LEGEND 10/19/06
CARNIVAL FREEDOM 2/09/08
DISNEY WONDER 9/28/08
NCL DAWN 4/30/09
CARNIVAL PRIDE 2/14/10
CARNIVAL GLORY 7/31/10
CARNIVAL MIRACLE 4/14/2011
DISNEY DREAM 11/06/2011
CARNIVAL SPLENDOR 5/25/2013
CARNIVAL GLORY. 8/29/2013
CARNIVAL SPLENDOR 11/09/2013 PLATINUM
INDEPENDENCE OF THE SEAS 01/12/2014
ALLURE OF THE SEAS 11/02/2014
QUANTUM OF THE SEAS 04/24/2015
CARNIVAL BREEZE 1/10/2016
CARNIVAL VISTA 11/5/2016
OASIS OF THE SEAS 08/27/2017
CARNIVAL HORIZON 09/22/2018
CELEBRITY EDGE 01/06/2019
#14
Kansas & Florida
146 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
Transit4595

I'm sorry that your day with Mario was so disappointing. I think we may have been travelling the same day.

If you are going to use an independent tour operator it is really important to do your homework, so you know exactly what you are getting. I've been planning cruise groups for several years and have always used independent tours - they offer greater flexibility and can be considerably cheaper than what is offered by the ship.

Agreed that comes with a risk, but no tour operator wants bad press - they are committed to trying to give you a good day out. Our group thought the trip with Mario the highlight of the cruise - and to take the tour and miss out the Village detracts from the experience. The Embera Indian people are so hospitable, and we provide their living. I would much sooner buy my souvenirs from them than portside shops. But that's a personal preference.

Paul
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#15
Kansas & Florida
146 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
One last thought on bathrooms - The Embera Indian Experience is real life. There are bathrooms at the Village, but they are basic, certainly not what one expects in the US - but this is how the people live no plumbing or electricity.
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MSC Divina (W. Med 4/29/18)
Pulmantur Zenith (S. Carib 10/21/17)
Navigator of the Seas (Bahamas 1/3/17)
MSC Divina (E. Carib 10/22/16)
Norwegian Star (W.Carib 11/6/11)
Carnival Destiny (W. Carib 1/7/10)
Celebrity Millennium (Alaska 5/29/09)
Crown Princess (E. Carib 10/26/08)
Carnival Fascination (W. Carib 4/14/08)
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Westerdam (W. Carib 10/22/06)
Carnival Liberty (SW Carib 1/21/06)
Enchantment of the Seas (QC-FL 10/2/05)
Zuiderdam (E. Carib 10/30/04)
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#16
458 Posts
Joined Jul 2004
We just returned from Panama and did the tour with Mario; Ivan was our guide. We did the waterfall swimming, the Indian village and the locks. In our own little group we had one senior, kids - 20, 17, 15, 12, 11, 10, 7 and almost six. There were four or six others in the bus with us. We found toilets (johnny on the spot) at the waterfront where the canoes met us, in the Indian Village and again at the Gatun Locks. We swam first, did the Indian Village (with lunch) and then to the locks. We were probably at the locks for about half an hour - the shortest part of the trip, but that suited our family just fine. We got to see three boats go through the locks at various stages. We did not shop until we got back to the pier at 3.35. The ship lines were long and we had a few minutes to buy a few little items. However, like PaulnKarl, to by our souvenirs at the Indian Village. We had a fabulous tour, never worried about getting back on time, and loved everything about it. It was by far the best money we spent. We would highly, highly recommend this tour operator.
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Chris, Melissa and Co.

Ontario, Canada


Family Cruise Coming Up Next! February 2015
Norwegian Spirit - 14 November 2014
Norwegian Dawn - 16 February 2014
Norwegian Jade - 16 November 2013
Carnival Glory - 05 May 2013
Norwegian Jade - 25 May 2012
Carnival Glory - 12 November 2008
Lady Diana - 20 May 2007
Carnival Liberty - 21 January 2006
Carnival Glory - 06 November 2004
#17
25 Posts
Joined Nov 2004
We were probably on the same bus- didn't you think it heartbreaking when the little girl that had to go potty real bad- and we stopped at the side of the road - returned with her wet shorts in her hand and said- "Mommy- here's my shorts- they got in the way." And did you not notice that the "johnny on the spots" were locked?
And weren't you worried when at 3:20 and we boarded the bus, Ivan got on and said- 'Let's Go- we got everybody?" and I noticed that the older woman that had been sitting next to me wasn't there, and the kids cried out- "Grammy's Gone!!! and so is Mom!!" and Ivan bolted out the bus to find them and time kept on ticking, you weren't worried? Or are you Grammy's daughter who also wasn't on the bus.
#18
25 Posts
Joined Nov 2004
I haven't even mentioned the ants in the paper bag snacks Ivan supplied.
I'm sure many of the travelers enjoyed their day with Ivan and until the last hour or so, even I was having a good time. I think Ivan has friends at the Indian Village and spent too much time there and at the waterfalls. Especially after he reassured us that morning, that we would be back by 3 pm.
#19
458 Posts
Joined Jul 2004
I was Mom and I was with Grammy. We were on the bottom of the deck watching the ship go through the lock and did not see anyone leave! Good to know that our kids missed us! - and my daughter did have shorts that got in the way - it was heartbreaking - but I don't even think she remembers it, she loved the swimming and the village and that highlights her memory of the day.

I wasn't worried about the timing. I really trusted that we would be back in time. We had so much time, in fact, that we did a bit of shopping at the pier before boarding the ship.

Yeah, the ants sucked - but they didn't do any damage and it's a hot, humid country. He did stop at the store and buy us all drinks though!
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Chris, Melissa and Co.

Ontario, Canada


Family Cruise Coming Up Next! February 2015
Norwegian Spirit - 14 November 2014
Norwegian Dawn - 16 February 2014
Norwegian Jade - 16 November 2013
Carnival Glory - 05 May 2013
Norwegian Jade - 25 May 2012
Carnival Glory - 12 November 2008
Lady Diana - 20 May 2007
Carnival Liberty - 21 January 2006
Carnival Glory - 06 November 2004
#20
Marlton, NJ
2,466 Posts
Joined Nov 2003
Glass half full - glass half empty!!! It's really interesting to hear about the same trip from both sides. Luckily, I'm alot like MOM and I refuse to worry on vacation and my glass is usually full to the rim (I wipe off the ants before drinking tough!!!).
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